Three years ago, Bastian Schweinsteger was on top of the soccer world. He was starting for the best club and national teams in the world, winning the Champions League for Bayern Munich in 2013 and the World Cup for Germany in 2014. The do-it-all midfielder won eight Bundesliga titles with Bayern and seven DFB-Pokals, and he left his lifelong club to ride off into the sunset with Manchester United in 2015.
The move didn’t work out for either side, and after 35 appearances and two goals over two years, the aging German is headed to the Midwest to cash out. The Chicago Fire have been in talks with Schweinsteiger since November, and he signed a $4.5 million contract with the team today, per the Chicago Tribune. He and the club can mutually agree to extend that contract for another season if they wish. Schweinsteiger will become one of the highest paid players in MLS, and one of the best players ever for Chicago, who have been bad for a while.
“We’re adding someone who has won at every level, including the very highest levels, and has done so in a way that is consistent with our values,” Fire general manager Nelson Rodriguez said. “We as a club will now be forced to hold ourselves to a higher standard, an accountability level. Previously, I think we could satisfy ourselves with what is known domestically. Now we need to rise to a standard that is set more internationally.”
The Fire apparently wanted to add Schweinsteiger as soon as they could, and the one-year deal made the addition possible under MLS’ byzantine salary rules. Schweinsteiger hasn’t appeared in a Premier League game this season, and it’s somewhat of a mystery how in-shape he’ll be. But like so many of his fellow European veterans in MLS, his purpose in the league isn’t so much to lead his club to glory as it is to raise the profile of the league and put butts in seats. Chicago sports one of the worst attendance figures in MLS, and Schweinsteiger fits the bill of flashy marquee signing.
However, he doesn’t have the highlight reel sizzle of someone like Giovani Dos Santos or Sebastian Giovinco. He’s not a creative midfielder, he’s a workhorse who’s been out of commission for a year. He’ll still help Chicago, but he’s been declining for four years. China may be the go-to league for players to cash out, but MLS will always be down to overpay for washed-up old guys.