Bayern Munich and Germany legend Bastian Schweinsteiger announced he will retire at the end of the current Major League Soccer season, bringing down the curtain on one of football’s most decorated careers for club and country.
bundesliga.com runs down 10 of the most memorable moments in the storied career of the former Bayern and Germany midfielder.
1) Bayern bow
Born in Bavaria, Schweinsteiger attended school in Munich before joining the Bayern academy in 1998. He began his trophy collection early on, winning the Bundesliga at both U17 and U19 level alongside the likes of Philipp Lahm and Michael Rensing. The following campaign he was already in the first-team fold, earning his senior debut in November 2002 against Lens in the UEFA Champions League. Ottmar Hitzfeld sent the 18-year-old on as a second-half substitute for club captain Mehmet Scholl, just 16 minutes before handing Lahm a Bayern debut as well.
Watch: Schweinseiger's top 5 Bundesliga goals
"You could see in training matches what a high level he had and what a huge talent he was," Hitzfeld said of his young charge. Less than a month later, the player still mistakenly known to the press as 'Sebastian' made his Bundesliga bow, coming on as a late substitute for current Bayern head coach Niko Kovac in a 3-0 win at VfB Stuttgart.
2) Breakthrough and maiden titles
From that point on, Schweinsteiger was rarely absent from Hitzfeld's side. He came off the bench in each of the next two games before being handed his full debut away at Arminia Bielefeld in the second match after the 2002/03 winter break. Still seen at the time as a raw talent, the teenager was used across the midfield but predominantly in wide positions.
Schweinsteiger's versatility quickly saw him become a crucial member of the first team. He featured in 14 of the 19 Bundesliga matches following his debut that season as Bayern won the title at a canter. He also scored his first goals for the club in an 8-0 DFB Cup win over Cologne, bagging a brace in a midfield that featured Owen Hargreaves, Ze Roberto and Kovac. That appearance was enough to earn Schweinsteiger a winner’s medal after Bayern beat Kaiserslautern 3-1 in the final, where the midfielder was an unused substitute. From 16 senior club appearances, Schweinsteiger had already secured a league and cup double.
3) Germany debut
Although he made his club debut only a few minutes before Lahm, Schweinsteiger had to wait a few months longer than his teammate to win a first Germany cap. In June 2004, Rudi Völler handed him a senior international debut at the age of 19 years and 10 months, just four months after he had made his first appearance for the U21s.
Schweinsteiger played the second half of the UEFA Euro 2004 warm-up against Hungary on the wing, alongside national legends Oliver Kahn, Michael Ballack, Miroslav Klose and Lukas Podolski, who also made his Germany debut later on in the game. Despite a 2-0 loss, Schweinsteiger did enough to earn himself a place at the summer's European Championships in Portugal, playing in every group game as Germany failed to progress to the knockout stage.
4) The captain's armband
Bayern as a club see themselves as representatives of Bavaria and Munich, taking particular pride in the promotion of their own. Alongside the likes of Thomas Müller, Schweinsteiger is regarded as one of the club’s true Bavarians and as such is an important figurehead for fans.
He was afforded one of the highest honours for a Bayern player in April 2008 when he was given the captain’s armband for the first time, even if only briefly. With neither Kahn nor Lucio in the team against Stuttgart, and Mark van Bommel and Willy Sangol both coming off in the 57th minute, responsibility was handed to Schweinsteiger for the remaining half an hour of a 4-1 win. No doubt a proud honour for the local boy.
5) Move into the middle
The Schweinsteiger the world has known for the best part of a decade is not the Schweinsteiger who burst onto the scene all those years ago with his dyed blond hair. After several seasons on the wings, new Bayern coach Louis van Gaal saw a different role for the No.31 and moved him into the centre alongside van Bommel. Following the announcement of his retirement, van Gaal described Schweinsteiger as "one of the best players I ever got to coach", which he did both in Munich and Manchester.
After starting him on the left in the first three competitive matches of the 2009/10 season, the Dutchman made the switch, and to brilliant effect. Just five games into the Bundesliga season Bayern thrashed Borussia Dortmund 5-1 at the Signal Iduna Park, with Schweinsteiger scoring the goal to put the Bavarians 2-1 up just after half-time. He featuring in all but four of the club's 53 fixtures as they won the Bundesliga ahead of Schalke, the DFB Cup against Werder Bremen and reached the final of the Champions League against Inter Milan. Bayern had their new midfield rock.
6) A season of anguish
The 2011/12 season was by no means a highlight of Schweinsteiger's illustrious career, but it was perhaps one of the most crucial for him as a player. A fractured collarbone and torn ankle ligaments frustrated him throughout the campaign as Bayern finished second in the Bundesliga and lost the DFB Cup final, both to Dortmund. The disappointment was complete the following week in the so-called "Finale dahoam" ("home final") when Bayern – the first team to play a Champions League showpiece in their own stadium – were beaten on penalties by English side Chelsea.
Watch: Bastian Schweinsteiger - Made in the Bundesliga
Schweinsteiger was a hero coming into the final at the Allianz Arena, having scored the winning penalty in the semi-final triumph against Real Madrid at the Bernabeu. But the night of 19 May 2012 turned sour for Schweinsteiger when Petr Cech turned his penalty, the team's fifth, onto the post – before Didier Drogba broke Bayern hearts.
7) European vengeance
"If a player misses a penalty in a game like that, he needs some time to deal with it," Jupp Heynckes explained after Schweinsteiger's shoot-out ordeal against Chelsea. "But it's just part of the football experience. Those moments mean big victories and titles – but also huge disappointments."
At their lowest ebb at the end of 2011/12, Schweinsteiger and Bayern fought back to conquer all comers in 2012/13, showing remarkable character throughout a historic campaign. With his injury problems behind him, 'Basti' played 45 games in all competitions as the Bavarians became the first German football club to complete the treble of Bundesliga, DFB Cup and Champions League. The icing on the cake? He was also named Germany's Footballer of the Year for 2013.
8) World champion
The crowning moment of Schweinsteiger's career came – as it did for many of his Germany teammates – in the FIFA World Cup final on 13 July 2014, as Die Mannschaft beat Argentina to win football's biggest prize for the fourth time. One of the enduring images of the Rio de Janeiro showpiece was the sight of Schweinsteiger with blood pouring down his face after a clash with Sergio Aguero, but continuing to harangue his teammates and encourage them to keep fighting. Mario Götze's winner may have made all the headlines, but it was an extraordinary performance from Germany's midfield warrior that won Joachim Löw's side the game.
Hitzfeld: "The part he played in winning the World Cup was incredibly big. You can't overestimate his performance at all - how he sacrificed himself for the team reminded me of Fritz Walter at the World Cup in 1954. He has worked his way through this German mentality, with this fighting spirit and his technical ability He has marched on as an absolute role model and has transferred his incredible will to the team."
Watch: Germany beat Argentina to lift 2014 World Cup
9) Leading his nation
Following Lahm's retirement, Schweinsteiger took his nation's armband just two months after that famous win at the Maracana. He would lead his team out on eight occasions, including throughout their Euro 2016 qualification and eventual defeat to France in the semi-finals of that tournament. But on 31 August 2016 - and having just turned 32 - Schweinsteiger would bid farewell to the national team in the 2-0 friendly win over Finland at Borussia Mönchengladbach's Borussia Park. He would exit the international stage with 121 caps - the fourth most appearances for Germany in history - and 24 goals.
As Löw explained this week, Schweinsteiger will be remembered as a true great for his country. "He's definitely one of the greatest players Germany has ever had," Löw declared. "Every one of us has an image in our heads of him during his career, and that's in the final at the Maracana, covered in blood. But he always got back up and fought until the very end. You could see and feel his desire to win in everything he did. He was a great player and a great person."
10) A legend departs
By the time Schweinsteiger had waved goodbye to the national setup, he had already departed the Bundesliga. In May 2015, Schweinsteiger's storied career in the German top-flight came to an end as the most decorated player in Bayern's history. He headed to English outfit Manchester United with eight Bundesliga trophies, seven DFB Cup winner medals, as well as a German League Cup, Super Cup and Champions League. His combined haul of 15 league and cup trophies is a record only matched by former teammate Franck Ribery.
Schweinsteiger would go on to win the FA Cup during his first season in Manchester and feature in both of United's successful Europa League and League Cup campaigns the following year before going on to break America, joining Chicago Fire in USA's Major League Soccer. Schweinsteiger's first season in Chicago was particularly successful as he fired his side into the MLS Playoffs for the first time in five years. His reward would be to captain the 2017 MLS All-Stars against Real Madrid in 2017 and he would make it back-to-back All-Star appearances by being named in the select XI again the following year. And so, this week the 35-year-old Bayern Hall of Famer hung up his illustrious boots with a heavy heart. "Saying goodbye as an active player makes me feel a little nostalgic," he said. You and us both, Basti. You and us both.
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