Last summer it was top-class strikers who were being sold all over Europe. This year, it’s midfielders. Cesc Fabregas has already been snapped up, Ivan Rakitic is on his way, and Toni Kroos and Kevin Strootman could be on the move. Now even Bastian Schweinsteiger, the emperor of midfield generals, looks set to pack his bags and head out of Munich.
There’ve been rumour and speculation about Schweinsteiger almost every transfer window for the last few years, but all of it seemed to be based on fantasy rather than substance. The German midfielder was absolutely central to the Bayern Munich team. He showed no desire to leave and they showed no desire to let him go.
Until this year. In contrast to his team, Schweinsteiger has endured an awful injury-ridden season which has seen him lose his place to the triumvirate of Kroos, Thiago, and converted full-back Philipp Lahm. Kroos, it’s true, is still refusing to sign a new deal with Bayern – but he is five years younger than Schweinsteiger and it would be no surprise if the German champions decide to cash in on the older player and use the money to keep Kroos.
And Bayern are no longer the side Schweinsteiger flourished in – the side of Louis Van Gaal and Jupp Heynckes where he was the both the brain and the pumping heart of the team. Now, with Pep Guardiola in charge, they play a more fluid, less direct type of football in which Thiago, for example, excels.
If Schweinsteiger does become available, what can he offer another team? Well, he’s one of the best midfielders in the world over the last decade. He has vision, precision passing, and excellent control, tackles like a tiger on caffeine, and dribbles with the ball like the winger he once was. He inspires players around him, links defence and attack seamlessly – in fact, he is as close to being the complete midfielder as any player of his era.
Where would he fit in the current Chelsea side? Schweinsteiger is very much a Mourinho-esque type of player. He would have been a superb replacement for Lampard. But where he would play, given that the Blues have now signed Fabregas, is tricky.
The reality would be that, with our current set-up, we would have to drop either Matic or Fabregas to accommodate him. The other alternative would be to play all three in a 4-3-3 formation with, say, Hazard and Willian operating further forward, either side of Costa.
Perhaps he could alternate in midfield with Fabregas. Football these days is not simply about having one first-team set in stone, it’s about being able to pick and choose from a full squad. But whether that would suit either the club or the players involved is questionable. Fabregas has not come to Stamford Bridge to spend a large part of his time on the bench, and nor will Schweinsteiger. Both players are better than that. And the club is unlikely to part with between £25million and £30million – as that is what it is likely to cost to part Schweinsteiger from Bayern – for a squad player.
The sad likelihood is that, if Schweinsteiger does end up playing in England, it is likely to be for another club. Possibly Manchester United, although they too are targeting other players, according to the Manchester Evening News. Even more likely is that he will stay in Munich. Schweinsteiger and Bayern are made for each other. Whatever tactical revolution Guardiola tries to spring, it’s hard in truth to imagine it without Bastien Schweinsteiger.