After years of waffling between no-name ineffective DPs and trying to make do on a shoestring budget, it seems as though the Fire are done fucking around.
The Chicago Tribune is reporting tonight that the Chicago Fire have signed Bastian Schweinsteiger. The 32-year-old midfielder and former Germany captain is joining the Fire from Manchester United on a reported salary of one-year Designated Player contract (with an option for a second year) reportedly worth $4.5m, making him one of the highest paid players in MLS. Per league and club policy, the exact terms of the transfer were not disclosed. The club could make an official announcement as early as tomorrow and Schweinsteiger, who was part of the Germany squad that won the World Cup in 2014, is expected to be available for selection for the Fire’s next league game on April 1st against Montreal.
In a statement to the Trib, Fire general manager Nelson Rodriguez described the signing as a statement of intent.
“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. 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.”
For his part, Schweinsteiger is anxious to get the next— and probably last— chapter of his career started.
“Throughout my career, I’ve always sought opportunities where I hoped to make a positive impact and to help make something great. My move to Chicago Fire is no different. Through my conversations with Nelson and Pauno, I'm convinced by the club’s vision and philosophy and I want to help them with this project.”
Fire manager Veljko Paunovic says Schweinsteiger is bringing experience and leadership to a dressing room that will no longer tolerate lowered expectations.
“In the locker room, he will be a huge example of a champion,” Paunovic said. “He still is somebody that can show that on the field and (demonstrate) how our guys have to work, prepare, behave, think and work together in order to get to that level. [...] He can produce actions that few players in the world can do. He sees (things) that nobody sees. He opens the eyes of the fans, where you can hear the people say, ‘Wow!’”
Schweinsteiger, who spent 14 years at Bayern Munich before moving to United in 2015, has been on the outs at Old Trafford ever since the arrival of José Mourinho. In recent months he’s been consigned to the U21s, with occasional substitute appearances in the League Cup and FA Cup. Rumors of a move to MLS have been percolating for much of the season and many were surprised not to see him leave United during the January transfer window.
Schweinsteiger is expected to link up with the team sometime next week.
Hot (Time) Take
I’m really trying to keep a cool head about this, but I got to level with you friends— I’m stoked. Not to overstate things, but in terms of pure box office draw this is almost certainly the biggest signing in the Fire’s history since Cuauhtémoc Blanco. Whether that translates into results on the pitch, of course, is another question.
Assuming he still has gas in the tank— which, I feel obliged to admit, is a Big If— the Fire now have arguably the strongest midfield in the league. I’m sitting here writing this and thinking about an inverted midfield triangle of Schweini-Dax-Juninho and I keep getting lost in a reverie. And with his years of experience and leadership qualities, the dressing room will start to stitch itself together in a way we haven’t seen in a long time.
The move also represents a level of investment in the first team that has been exceedingly rare for the Fire in recent years. After season after season of pursuing the likes of not going after big names for the sake of financial discipline, or overspending on no-name South American and Eastern European players who end up doing fuck-all on the pitch, or going after names like Jermaine Jones and Didier Drogba only to get hoodwinked by rivals, the Fire went after a bona fide star and they got their man. We’ve been sensing a stir in Bridgeview since the start of the offseason, a growing sense of ambition that has been in desperately short supply of late. What was a fragile shoot in the offseason has no grown into something with real heft, and I have to say, I’m really glad to see it.
We’ll have more about this move throughout the day, including a special Words About Shapes by Sean and our weekly roundtable discussion. There will be plenty of time to dissect the signing and pour cold water over ourselves. But for now, I’d like to make a humble suggestion: it’s okay to be excited about this. Maybe Schweinsteiger will work out and maybe it won’t, but for right now, we have things we haven’t had for years. We have ambition. We have power. But, mostly, we have hope.