Der Fußballgott has retired.
For three years, Bastian Schweinsteiger has shown Chicago the level of soccer it takes to make it to the very top of the sport. The level of success he has achieved in his career is unmatched by 99% of MLS players.
His success in MLS was, disappointingly, not up to par with the rest of his club career with Bayern Munich or even Manchester United. But I think there are many things he did for the Chicago Fire that were invaluable.
On The Pitch
Schweinsteiger was almost always the most skilled player out on the pitch. He hit passes that nobody else could, he directed traffic when others saw no passing lanes, and he instilled a calm in the team that was very clearly absent when he wasn’t there. That last point is what will be missed most in the post-Basti era.
I’ve never seen a player more calm on the ball than Schweinstiger. At least once a game there was a moment where anyone else would have cleared the ball out of danger, but Basti kept a cool head and played it out. It was fascinating to watch this unfold, as he patiently waited for a defender to draw near only to make a quick turn or short pass and have the Fire released from pressure. That kind of calm was contagious.
When Schweinsteiger joined in 2017 there was almost an immediate change in the team’s playing style. Every player was suddenly 10 times more confident in possession. He’s been a safety valve and a confidence boost on the field since the moment he joined.
Off The Pitch
There are two facets of off-the-pitch influence that Schweinsteiger brought during his time with the Fire.
One is the experience and leadership he displayed to the young players on the squad. The other is name recognition. Marquee names and marketing campaigns can be seen as a superficial benefit to signing a player like Schweinsteiger, but I believe that there is a magnetism to star power that is valuable and shouldn’t be overlooked.
However, the real off-field benefit he brought was the experience he brought to the young players. The amount of experience he brought to the Fire is unmatched by most of the league. Most young players can’t say that they had a World Cup and UEFA Champions League winner to look up to off the pitch.
Schweinsteiger seemed eager to help the young players on the Fire grow by sharing his knowledge with them. Both Brandt Bronico and Djordje Mihailovic posted on instagram about how much they were taken under his wing and grateful to have learned from him. Going forward, Bronico and Mihailovic may be important pieces to the Fire midfield, and the knowledge they have absorbed from Der Fußballgott will only help them cement their spots.
Basti will have an impact on the Fire even after he leaves because of the influence he had on the field and in the locker room here. Veljko Paunovic described replacing Schwieinstiger as “impossible”, and said he didn’t like the word “replacement”.
There is no direct replacement, but the goal should be aim for another player that can have that same type of influence that Schweinsteiger did at this club.