Bastian Schweinsteiger was three different players. The German superstar who announced his retirement from football on Tuesday leaves behind one of the strangest careers in the recent footballing memory. The 35-year-old was one of the best and most idiosyncratic central midfielder in the world. All in all, despite his late career collapse, for a decade he was an important part of German football.
Schweinsteiger was never more important for club and country than from 2012 to 2014. To say that this era belonged to Germany is an understatement: three Champions League finalists (twice Bayern Munich and one time Borussia Dortmund), finalists in 2012 and Of course, the World Cup Cup winners 2014. It is not surprising that Schweinsteiger was instrumental in all these successes.
Although Bayern lost the Champions League final in Munich in 2012, the club prevailed again in 2013 against Dortmund and won the title for the first time with big ears Schweinsteiger was not the best player in the field in both finals Bayern (the Didier Drogba and Manuel Neuer), but he did what he did best: clean up the midfield and initiate attacks from the depths.
However, he was the best player on the field in the 2014 World Cup final, despite scorer Mario Götze winning the man of the Match Award. Sure, Argentina should have won if Gonzalo Higuaín had not been Gonzalo Higuaín, but the real reason why Germany was able to banish albiceleste from the gate was Schweinsteiger, who spent 120 minutes in a Lionel Messiah. Shocker turned.
As Michael Cox of Zonal Marking pointed out at the time, Germany's heart and soul kept pushing Messi out of the middle of the park, where he was most dangerous, and forced the Argentine legend to scoop out or try to get behind to break a strong opponent German Backline. Schweinsteiger also passed the most passes on the field because he really could do it all. (As always, forgive the music.) Football highlights must calm down.)
This game and the end result were a departure from the first two World Cups from Schweinsteiger. In 2006, he entered the German national team as a winger at the young age of 22 years. He was never the fastest width player, but the game he would later show in his career from lower positions was already there when The team made it to the semifinals before losing to eventual champions Italy (Germany defeated Portugal and finished third and Schweinsteiger hit two long-distance golazos).
In 2010, there were again Schweinsteiger, who helped a younger, faster Seitengel by holding the middle pressed. Again, Germany went to the eventual champion – this time to Spain – before finishing third against Uruguay, although Schweinsteiger was rightly taking a place in the tournament team this time.
Like Bayern's stranglehold on Europe, the collapse of Schweinsteiger would be swift and vicious; After injury from his remaining pace, he moved to Manchester United and was fairly average before Jose Mourinho fired him into the B squad. And his later professional stay at the MLS and the Chicago Fire has left us with little recollection except for this wonderfully unpleasant moment of the press conference:
Whatever Schweinsteiger did after leaving FC Bayern does not affect his contribution to the sport. The two biggest peaks in German football in the past 15 years are directly attributable to Schweinsteiger. The way he adapted his playing style to a modern, profound destructor role that did not start as a pro is more impressive than any amount of wonders he scored on the wing.
He was the best German player of the decade – that was his Bayern teammate Philipp Lahm – but he was certainly the second and perhaps more important for the successes of his club and his country. He may have lost all his athleticism in one fell swoop, and his lasting legacy, especially in the English section of the football fandom, might have been so bleak. But for a few years there was nobody like Bastian Schweinsteiger, a whirlwind who did everything and, more importantly, won everything.