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Ahead of the 2012 UEFA European Championship, German skipper Joachim Low called Bastian Schweinsteiger “the brain” of his squad. The tag was virtually perfect for the national team’s No. 7, the absolute lynchpin of the central midfield.
For whichever side he has played — Bayern Munich, Manchester United, and now the Chicago Fire — Schweinsteiger has been the driving, creative force of the midfield for nearly 20 years. He has been the guiding spark of life.
On August 28, Schweinsteiger will play a testimonial match in Munich in which the celebrated star will play one half for the Chicago Fire and one half for his former club Bayern Munich. You’ll be able to stream the game right here on FloLive.
“I’m really looking forward to walking back out at the Allianz Arena and hopefully meeting lots of fans who’ve been there since the start of my career,” Schweinsteiger said. “I’m especially looking forward to seeing the fans on the south terrace, as we’ve always had a great relationship.”
An out-of-league friendly in the middle of league play won’t matter much for these teams in terms of tactics and fielding stars, but the unique format and celebration of one of the best German players ever is incentive enough to tune in.
Basti Does It All, Basti Wins It All
Although Schweinsteiger’s game has evolved and adapted over the years, he has always boasted the ability to do pretty much anything you need him to do in the center of the park. He doesn't fit easily into one standard midfield role — and that's a good thing.
Need a holding defensive midfielder, someone to send through balls to the forwards and build from the back? He can do that. Need a box-to-box mid with lethal range? Check. Need a more physical presence to slide into the No. 10 slot? Sure, he can do that, too, as he's demonstrated from time to time in Chicago.
Not only can Schweinsteiger do anything you want him to, the German star, nearing the end of his career, has pretty much won everything possible for a player to win. He clinched numerous league doubles with Bayern in the Bundesliga, as well as a Champions League crown in 2013 against fellow German side Borussia Dortmund.
But for much of his early career, international success eluded him — including a disappointing finish in the 2012 European Championships.
"There eventually comes a time when I need to start winning international titles as well," Schweinsteiger said ahead of that 2012 Euro run. "I don't want to win 20 doubles and then retire without having won a major trophy with Germany. I just don't want to.”
The Germans may have been ousted from the 2012 continental trophy by Italy, but they stormed back to the international scene in 2014 with a World Cup win for the ages — clobbering home side Brazil 7-1 in the semifinals and shutting down a Lionel Messi-led Argentina 1-0 in the final. Schweinsteiger started and orchestrated both of those games to perfection. In the title-winning match, Schweinsteiger completed 89.5 percent of his passes on 115 touches (second-most touches on the team) and led the front seven with four total tackles.
He was, per usual, the fulcrum around which the team pivoted.
The Foundations Of The MLS Are Changing Dramatically
Schweinsteiger followed the tradition of a number of European stars who decided to venture stateside for the last years of their soccer legacies. Before him, household names like David Beckham, Thierry Henry, and Andrea Pirlo left the Old World for the New. And just in recent months Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Wayne Rooney — to stunning success — have made the jump.
But although the trend of European players coming stateside to see out their careers is continuing, the league itself is transforming.
“You have to know that the MLS is still a young league if you compare it to leagues in Europe,” Schweinsteiger said in an interview. “There’s a lot of potential to grow as a league.”
And he isn’t wrong.
According to ESPN’s Jeff Carlisle, of the 91 players that MLS teams brought in over the offseason, the average age was 24.1. That includes scintillating prospects like Ezequiel Barco of Atlanta United and Jesus Medina of New York City FC. Then there are the homegrown prospects: Chris Richards, on loan to Bayern Munich from FC Dallas; Tyler Adams of the New York Red Bulls; Cristian Roldan of the Seattle Sounders; Canadian Alphonso Davies (recently sold to Bayern Munich) of the Vancouver Whitecaps; keeper Zack Steffen of the Columbus Crew — and so many more.
Players like Schweinsteiger are playing a crucial role in this transition period for the MLS, which, despite being around for a few decades, is still in many ways a nascent league. (For context, the English started playing organized soccer in 1888!) But coupling European stars with American youth prospects (whether from South, Central, or North America) is a recipe for success.
And don’t kid yourself: If Basti still wanted to be playing in Europe, he could be. Check out his goal from just a few weeks ago:
Seeing Schweinsteiger play in Munich will be a treat for everyone — for his current and former teammates, for his fans in Bavaria, and for the player himself. Don’t forget to watch the game right here on FloLive.