Two years ago, Bastian Schweinsteiger was basking in the glory of a World Cup win with Germany. More than that however, was the fact that in a post-Philipp Lahm team, he would be made captain of his country – arguably the highest honour it is possible to bestow on a player. 2014 was pretty much as good as it gets for a player like Schweinsteiger.
Fast forward to 2016 and the midfielder was spending his 32nd birthday training with the reserves having been banished by his new manager Jose Mourinho. Instructed to find a new club yet seemingly stranded by the mega £200,000-per-week which Manchester United offered him upon arrival in the summer of 2015, it’s been quite the fall from grace for one of European football’s most decorated stars.
So where did it all go so horribly wrong?
It may seem rather easy to pinpoint specific reasons for why Schweinsteiger has had such a torrid time of late. Injuries, a move to England, a lack of form – all have gotten the best of players in the past. But the truth is that none of these reasons on their own could have crippled Schweinsteiger to such an extent. In isolation, they weren’t really a big deal.
If Schweinsteiger was left to recover from his knee and ligament problems in the right surroundings and the right circumstances, it may have been a different story. Instead, these speed bumps in his career piled up on one another, with the injuries laying the foundations. One after the other they stunted him, intertwining to devastating effect and putting pay to a once-dazzling career within a matter of months.
Injury troubles both late in 2014 and early in 2015 saw Schweinsteiger’s Bundesliga season fractured and, having been surplus to requirements at Bayern Munich under Pep Guardiola, the move to Manchester United appeared to make sense for all parties. A reunion with Louis van Gaal, game time and a challenging new league awaited him and after 17 years and over 500 games for Bayern, it seemed a fitting time to say goodbye.
However, it wasn’t all so straightforward. The injuries at Bayern had clearly caught up with him and it became apparent that the Premier League is an entirely different kettle of fish. Schweinsteiger found it difficult to adapt and as his form suffered, so did the team. In a Manchester United midfield simply crying out for energy and tempo, he wasn’t able to provide it in the droves as he did during his pomp.
Ligament injuries hampered the second half of his season, almost forcing him out of Euro 2016. While Schweinsteiger was able to appear at the tournament, he played second fiddle for the vast majority of the competition. In something of a drab European Championship overall Germany rarely, if at all, kicked into life and were dumped out at the semi-final stage. International retirement followed – and so too did marginalisation under Mourinho at United.
These have, without doubt, been the most torturous two years of Schweinsteiger’s career, yet nothing which befell him was his fault. In any case, it now seems unthinkable that he’ll play for United again, so a move away seems highly likely.
Italian giants AC Milan and Internazionale have both been linked in the Italian press, as has his former club. Any of them would seem fitting – Serie A seems to be the place to go in the years immediately before your twilight years, while a return to Bayern would see him among people he knows in an atmosphere he likes. Although, Carlo Ancelotti stated the likelyhood of a return to Bayern for Schweinsteiger is more than likely off the cards. But whatever happens now for Schweini, the important thing is that his North-West nightmare comes to an end.