Bayern Munich icon Bastian Schweinsteiger is to return to the Allianz Arena for one final appearance in the colours of club where he made his reputation… and what a reputation!
His testimonial on 28 August will see ‘Schweini’ play a half for the Bundesliga champions and the other 45 minutes for his current side, the MLS franchise Chicago Fire, giving his adoring Bayern fans one more chance to worship their Fußballgott (football god).
bundesliga.com takes a closer look at a living German football legend.
1) Sebastian who?
Born in Kolbermoor near Munich, on 1 August 1984, Schweinsteiger followed his elder brother Tobias into football, starting to play at six and joining the Reds in 1998 aged 14. Tobias would also sign for Bayern, playing for the reserve team in 2012, but Bastian made a far bigger impression. He made his first-team debut in a UEFA Champions League game against French side RC Lens in November 2002 – the same match that also saw Philipp Lahm handed his first-team bow. While the future Germany captain was yet to make a name for himself, Schweinsteiger had already done so, only it was the wrong one. Respected German football magazine kicker called him ‘Sebastian’ after his debut, an error that meant the player himself spent weeks correcting journalists during interviews.
2) All hail the Fußballgott
In 15 years at Bayern, Schweinsteiger earned himself the nickname ‘Fußballgott’ (football god) from Bayern fans. The Munich faithful had good cause to christen one of their favourite local sons so royally. After making his Bundesliga debut in a 3-0 win at Stuttgart by replacing current Eintracht Frankfurt boss Niko Kovac in December 2002, ‘Schweini’ joined the pantheon of Bayern greats, making 342 Bundesliga appearances that brought 45 goals and 70 assists, including his cute backheel flick against Frankfurt that clinched the 2012/13 title for his hometown club in record time.
Watch: Made in the Bundesliga: Schweinsteiger
3) It’s all downhill from here, Bastian
Well, not quite, though it literally could have been with young Bastian a talented ski racer. Schweinsteiger, whose father owned a sporting goods shop, routinely thrived when competing against childhood friends like Felix Neureuther, who went on to represent Germany in three Winter Olympics.
4) Cross my palm with silverware
Where to start? Eight Bundesliga titles, seven DFB Cups, a Champions League, a FIFA Club World Cup and…oh yeah, the 2014 FIFA World Cup. Schweinsteiger’s career has brought an Aladdin’s cave of trophies, 26 major triumphs in total. One of the most decorated players in German football history, he also went on to win the UEFA Europa League, FA Cup and English League Cup while at Manchester United.
5) All good things…
Schweinsteiger’s 17-year association with Bayern was more than good, but when United made an approach in summer 2015, it was time to go. “Manchester United is the only club that I would have left Munich for,” explained the midfielder, who was reunited with former Bayern boss Louis van Gaal in England. He was described as the “ultimate professional” by the Dutchman, and proved it when 12 months later Jose Mourinho replaced Van Gaal and promptly consigned Schweinsteiger to the Old Trafford closet without so much as a grumble from the German superstar. “He’s in the category of players that I feel sorry for something that I did to him,” said Mourinho, who made a rare apology to Schweinsteiger when the pair went their separate ways in winter 2017. “I will miss a good guy, a good professional, a good influence in training – a very good influence.”
6) Second love
Schweinsteiger’s other sporting passion is basketball. A longtime friend of German NBA superstar Dirk Nowitzki of the Dallas Mavericks, he very nearly made an appearance in Germany’s second tier only for the bold move to fall through. “Just imagine what would have happened if he’d fallen badly or got injured some other way,” said Dirk Bauermann, ex-coach of both the Germany and Bayern Munich basketball team.
7) A new wind
The wintry chill of Munich and the infamous rain of Manchester set Schweinsteiger up nicely for the next — and most likely final — stop of his career: Chicago. Aged 33, he arrived in the Windy City in March 2017 to give the local MLS franchise, Chicago Fire, some spark. He certainly did so, scoring on his debut en route to helping his club into the play-offs for the first time in three seasons. His efforts were recognised by MLS fans, who voted for Schweinsteiger to captain the MLS All-Star side against Real Madrid last year, putting him top of a Snapchat poll ahead of New York City FC’s David Villa and Colorado Rapid’s goalkeeper Tim Howard.
8) Ana’s ‘duso’
After dating Munich-born model Sarah Brandner between 2007 and 2014, Schweinsteiger’s other half is now Serbian former tennis world number one Ana Ivanovic, prompting him to have the Serbian word duso - ‘sweetheart’ - printed on his boots. The pair were married in Venice in July 2016 and celebrated the birth of their first child, a boy, in March 2018.
9) Great first (human) touch
An amusing, courteous and thoughtful interviewee, Schweinsteiger has time for more than just the media. When he changed his United number from 23 to the 31 he wore throughout his Bayern days, Schweinsteiger sent a signed shirt to a fan who had bought a jersey sporting his old number, and did the same for a further 31 United supporters. He showed the human face of football in still better light when he wrote to Babak Rafati, the Bundesliga referee who tried to take his own life in 2011. “Mr Rafati, there’s often setbacks in life. But you have to bounce back each time,” the then-27-year-old Schweinsteiger had written in a letter as the former referee himself revealed. “I wish you all the best.”
10) Friends in high places
Schweinsteiger is a legend for both club and country. Over 12 years — the last two as captain of his nation — until his retirement in 2016, he made 121 appearances for Die Mannschaft, making him the fourth-most-capped player in the world champions’ glorious history. He also appears to have built a close bond with Germany’s chancellor Angela Merkel.
They first met at the 2006 World Cup and then sat together at a EURO 2008 group game against Austria before also sharing a warm embrace following the 2013 UEFA Champions League final. The narrative continued with the now famous images of Merkel celebrating with the players in the dressing room after Germany’s 2014 World Cup triumph against Argentina.