Bastian Schweinsteiger arrived at Bayern as a boy and left as a man. This summarises the former wild child and his transformation into an experienced veteran in the heart of Bayern Munich and Germany’s midfield.
Schweinsteiger joined Bayern Munich as a youth player at the age of 14-years-old in July 1998. Football wasn’t his only talent and he was forced to decide between pursuing a career in skiing or football.
He chose to remain with the Bavarians and helped guide them to German Bundesliga youth titles in 2001 and 2002. However, the life of a modern-day footballer proved too much for the young starlet, who began to hit the headlines for the wrong reasons.
Controversially, Bastian was caught speeding in his sports car and later in a Jacuzzi in Bayern Munich’s training ground with a young lady. It wasn’t the type of image such a promising player should be portraying but he gradually matured and left his immature behaviour behind him by striding forward with both club and country.
Making his debut in November 2002, Schweinsteiger won the league and cup double twice in three years. He also finished Third Place in the 2005 Confederations Cup, after making his international debut in 2004.
The Transition From Mediocre Winger to Midfield Magician
He started life as a left-back, swiftly switching to a left-winger and Louis Van Gaal made a ground breaking decision to deploy him in central midfield.
In that season (2009/10), Schweinsteiger played a pivotal role in narrowly missing out on Bayern Munich’s first ever European treble. Van Gaal had successfully secured both the German Bundesliga title and the DFB-Pokal Cup.
However, their European dreams were evaporated in Madrid by Serie A champions Inter Milan, who achieved treble ambitions of their own. He was a much less popular figure amongst German supporters due to his generations failure to secure a major trophy at international level with Germany.
Near misses in the 2006 World Cup, Euro 2008, 2010 World Cup and Euro 2012 had left the German public disillusioned by the national team. Schweinsteiger was perceived in the master of failure when his penalty-miss handed Chelsea their first ever UEFA Champions League in 2012.
Finally in 2013, Bayern had restated their domestic dominance, following Borussia Dortmund’s back-to-back German Bundesliga titles in 2011 and 2012. Schweinsteiger also had another crack at winning his first ever UEFA Champions League, in an all-German final against rivals Borussia Dortmund.
Mario Mandzukic gave Bayern Munich an early lead and Arjen Robben’s late heroics overwrote Gundagon’s equaliser for Borussia Dortmund to secure the club’s fifth European Cup/UEFA Champions League crown.
Schweinsteiger showed great determination to prove his critics wrong in the 2014 World Cup in Brazil. He practically played through his knee injury to feature on five occasions, as Germany were crowned World Cup champions for the first time in 24 years.
Schweinsteiger’s Rapid Decline
He’d now gone from national scapegoat to national hero but his persistence to play through injury practically ended his Bayern Munich career. ‘Schweini’ missed Bayern’s opening 18 fixtures as his previous injury worsened in the early stages of the 2014/15 campaign.
A variety of different injuries eventually signalled the end of Schweinsteiger’s 17-year spell in Munich. He searched for a new challenge and joined forces with former manager Louis Van Gaal in 2015.
Rekindling his relationship with his former master had the adverse effect and injuries would again limit his playing opportunities. Schweinsteiger scored only one goal in his 18 Premier League appearance and Mourinho’s arrival led to him being an outcast at the Theatre of Dreams.
Overall, Schweinsteiger scored 68 goals in 500 appearances for Bayern Munich in all competitions. He also won 18 major honours at Bayern, including 8 Bundesliga titles, 7 DFB-Pokal Cups and one DFB-Ligapokal, DFL-Supercup and UEFA Champions League.
He also placed himself in German football folklore by finishing his international career as the fourth most capped player in history, behind Lothar Matthaus, Miroslav Klose and Lukas Podolski.
Along with his 24 goals in 121 caps, he also won the German Player of the Year in 2010 and captained Germany in the final two years of his international career and Euro 2016.
It’s a sad end to such a difficult, emotional but wonderful career. Unfortunately, he was unable to end his career at the top like former teammate Philipp Lahm but he’ll be held in high regard by the Bayern faithful for many years to come.