Bastian Schweinsteiger was seen dining last Friday evening with Veljko Paunovic, trainer of Chicago Fire of Major League Soccer, triggering a flurry of speculation about whether the World Champion midfielder would be transferring away from Manchester United this winter.
With the Fire having posted a league-low 31 points in 34 matches with a league-worst minus-16 goal-differential, Paunovic is in Europe scouting for help as MLS is in the midst of its postseason playoffs.
Back in October, league commissioner Don Garber said of Schweinsteiger, “We would welcome Bastian with open arms. He would be a leader for our many young players.”
The Fire hold a “Discovery Claim” on Schweinsteiger, giving the team first shot at his acquiring his services should he decide to join MLS.
Schweinsteiger’s time with the Red Devils has been anything but smooth. In his first season after his 2015 summer transfer, Schweinsteiger made 31 appearances, including 21 starts. A knee injury limited him to just 65 minutes in four appearances after January 9, however.
Dutch trainer Louis van Gaal, whose relationship with Schweinsteiger was instrumental in luring “Basti” from his beloved Bayern for the hallowed grounds of Old Trafford, was replaced over the summer by Jose Mourinho.
Mourinho wasted no time signaling that Schweinsteiger would play no role in his Manchester United. He sent the 32-year-old with eight Bundesliga titles, a Champions League title, and current World Champion to train with the club’s youth squad.
The Portuguese coach’s tactics didn’t sit well with another Schweinsteiger. Tobi Schweinsteiger, who is an assistant coach in Bayern’s youth system, tweeted a two-word English-language review of how Manchester United had treated his brother: “no respect.”
— Tobi Schweinsteiger (@tobits7) August 1, 2016
As for the player himself, the only response was what one might expect of a player with a solid reputation as a consummate professional. He went to work with the youth players, saying he was confident in his abilities. Schweinsteiger downplayed any notion of an immediate transfer away.
— Basti Schweinsteiger (@BSchweinsteiger) August 24, 2016
Mourinho has allowed Schweinsteiger to return to first-team training, though it’s thought that the move was more to allow the player to prepare for a winter transfer, rather than a signal that he might be on a path to return to the first team.
And if Schweinsteiger truly wishes to continue his playing career outside of European football, the United States is a welcoming destination.
MLS is known for being very generous to post-prime players with big international profiles. Players like Steven Gerrard, Frank Lampard, David Villa, Didier Drogba, and Andrea Pirlo all played significant roles with their MLS clubs this past season despite all being north of 33-years-old.
Schweinsteiger turned 32 in August.