With Bastian Schweinsteiger having swapped Bayern München for Manchester United, Jürgen Baumgartner asks what his old club will miss and what Louis van Gaal has gained.
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Something will be missing when Bayern München stadium announcer Stephan Lehmann introduces the starting lineup at the German champions' next home game. Lehmann is known for calling out the players' first names, and the passionate supporters who pack the Fußball Arena München duly scream the rest. For years, after belting out "Bastian" to introduce the side's No31, Bayern's fans shouted back "Schweinsteiger" before adding "Fussballgott".
The so-called 'football god' will not be there next season, having been lured by Manchester United's offer of a three-year contract and a new adventure as he approaches his 31st birthday next month, Schweinsteiger's signing confirmed along with that of Southampton's France midfielder Morgan Schneiderlin. "One last dream in my career [has] come true," tweeted the Germany midfielder, who picked up 20 trophies during 17 years of superb service to the Bayern cause. "I am excited about the next chapter in my life with Manchester United."
The news has hit Bayern fans hard, with officials maintaining that they had tried everything to keep Schweinsteiger on board. "We did all we could to convince him to remain at Bayern München, but he wants to try something new towards the end of his career," vowed chairman Karl-Heinz Rummenigge. Nevertheless, 'Schweini' was more than just a footballer in Munich: he was a club institution. Sporting director Matthias Sammer described him as an "icon" when news of the move broke.
Born in Kolbermoor, Upper Bavaria, the local hero joined Bayern at 14 and was 18 when he made his first-team debut on 13 November 2002 in a UEFA Champions League group stage tie against Lens – replacing FCB captain Mehmet Scholl in the 76th minute. Some 536 appearances later, he has won everything there is to win for the club – including eight German championships, seven German Cups and the UEFA Champions League. He also inspired Germany to FIFA World Cup success last summer.
One of the reasons behind his desire to depart is undoubtedly former coach Louis van Gaal, who is now looking to lead United back to the Premier League summit. The Dutchman shaped the midfielder's career while he held the Bayern reins from 2009 to 2011, converting Schweinsteiger from a winger to a defensive midfielder, which accelerated his development into a world-class player.
Schweinsteiger has achieved his biggest triumphs when deployed centrally as a playmaker, most notably helping drive FCB to UEFA Champions League glory in 2012/13 and clinching the 2014 World Cup in Brazil. His tough tackling and uncompromising approach have earned him respect from fans across the globe, while the Red Devils' supporters can also look forward to his incredible passing accuracy and ability to find openings.
Most teams would be happy to have those qualities in the middle of the park, but Schweinsteiger has had to play in other positions at Bayern of late, partly due to a number of injuries, with coach Josep Guardiola often preferring others in the central role. Van Gaal is a big fan of the 30-year-old, though, so expect the man capped 111 times by Germany to return to his preferred position next term.
Rummenigge, meanwhile, hopes to see the club legend come home after his stint in England. "Bastian is a wonderful guy," he said. "The door is always open for him to return to FC Bayern if that's what he wants." The side's supporters undoubtedly feel likewise – and an early reunion could even be on the cards in the UEFA Champions League group stage if United can negotiate the play-offs.