Euro 2016: Preview - Can Bastian Schweinsteiger rediscover his form?
Can the German skipper return to his World Cup winning form after an unsuccessful year in England with Manchester United?
In the last decade, there were only a handful of footballers termed as ‘Magicians’. From picking the right pass to bamboozling your opponents, the so called ‘Magician’ dictates play with authority and can change the game in an instant. Spain has Andres Iniesta. Italy had Andrea Pirlo. Croatia has Luka Modric. For Germany, there was a certain Bastian Schweinsteiger.
Standing exactly at 6 feet and weighing a solid 174 pounds (79 kg), Bastian was deemed perfect for a typical central midfielder’s role. For 17 years, Schweinsteiger honed his skills for German Giants Bayern Munich, which included a staggering 342 appearances for the senior team.
After winning numerous accolades for Bayern Munich, in July 2015, Bastian joined English giants Manchester United (for a reported fee of £6.5 million) in search of a new challenge. What followed is one of the biggest falls from greatness.
Within the first ten minutes of his debut Premier League match, Bastian had already been booked for a rash challenge on a Tottenham player. Lacking in pace and with weakened passing abilities, Schweinsteiger was more of a bane rather than a boon. Defensively, he became weaker as the matches progressed and offered absolutely nothing on the pitch.
Gradually, he fell down the pecking order at club level where promising youngsters Ander Herrera and Jesse Lingard took over the midfield general’s position.Things got worse for Schweinsteiger as he was sidelined for a few months with several minor injuries.
After his recovery, he was given a few starts but sadly, he did not make the most of his opportunities and found himself warming the bench for the rest of the season.
However, undeterred by Bastian’s club form, national team head coach Joachim Low selected him for the 2016 European Championships and also, let him keep the captain’s armband. "We at the German Football Association know what we are getting with Bastian, He's still a world-class player and undisputedly our captain" reports a confident Joachim Low to the press.
He has been a troublesome case for some time, but he is, ultimately, a guy you cannot leave at home. He had an average 2013-14 season with Bayern Munich, but at the World Cup in Brazil, he was a midfield monster.
Without his presence, Germany would have easily crumbled. Leaving behind a bad couple seasons, Bastian Schweinsteiger will be eager to make an impact in the upcoming European Championships.
Position: Central Midfielder (CM), Holding Midfielder (CDM)
Strengths: One of the best passers of his generation, Schweinsteiger’s vision is unquestionable. Be it a short pass to a fellow midfielder or a long diagonal ball to the striker, Bastian delivers it with ease. He has a knack of scoring some amazing long rangers. The screamer from 35 yards against Borussia Dortmund in a Bundesliga match a couple of years ago signifies his capabilities. Schweinseiger is also a feared set-piece taker. Numerous assists from corners, direct free kick goals and pin-point crosses are all in the blonde German’s arsenal.
Weaknesses: One thing which he definitely lacks in is pace. Generally sluggish, Schweinsteiger has never found it easy to move with a great deal of speed. His aerial abilities are not the best. Standing at 6 feet, he must fend off defenders with relative ease, but he loses his balance and tends to lose the ball often. Speaking about balance, when fouled, Bastian does not waste any time in going down and winning his team a free-kick.
Career High: Well, that’s an understatement! From the Champions League to the FIFA Club World Cup, Schweinsteiger has won it all at club level with Bayern Munich. 22 trophies to be precise. To cap this incredible collection of silverware, he added the 2014 FIFA World Cup to his cabinet.
Career Low: The 2015-16 Premier League season. A combination of poor form and several injuries has seen Bastian fall down the pecking order at club level.
Style: A typical box to box midfielder, Schweinsteiger thrives on passing the ball and provides stability to the midfield.
Quotes: “He is not like a boss, he is the boss!” - veteran Bayern Munich skipper Philipp Lahm on Schweinsteiger.
Germany are placed in Group C along with Poland, Ukraine and Northern Ireland.
Winning back-to-back trophies is a measure of a great team. France has done it, so have Spain. Germany have come close, but have fallen short ever time. Joachim Low has an abundance of talent available to him; a new generation is coming through to suggest the future is very bright for Die Mannschaft.
Germany have struggled in recent friendlies. Losses to Slovakia and England have dampened the mood. However, with players like Manuel Neuer, Jerome Boateng, Mesut Ozil, Thomas Muller, and Schweinsteiger himself, all backed up by a whole load of young talent, Germany have the extra gears to go through that others don't.