Germany team manager Olivier Bierhoff has taken a swipe at Manchester United boss Louis van Gaal over his treatment of Bastian Schweinsteiger.
The 31-year-old Germany international, who arrived in the summer from Bayern Munich for a fee reported by United to be £14.4million, has struggled to stamp his authority on the club.
The World Cup winner has made 27 appearances, scoring once for United, but he has not appeared for the club since the FA Cup third-round victory over Sheffield United on January 9 due to a knee problem.
United boss Van Gaal has, on more than one occasion, admitted he expected more from the Champions League winner and has publicly criticised the player.
“Until now we haven’t seen the best of Schweinsteiger, the player I saw at Bayern Munich,” Van Gaal said in December.
Schweinsteiger was then replaced by Michael Carrick on 69 minutes as United were eliminated from the Champions League with a 3-2 defeat by Wolfsburg and the veteran midfielder bore the brunt of Van Gaal’s criticism once more.
But Bierhoff claims the criticism has not been good for the mindset of Schweinsteiger, whose focus is the summer’s European Championships with the national team.
“Every player needs the backing of the coach, the same goes for Bastian,” he told Sport Bild. “Generally, I find it unfortunate if coaches publicly criticise their players so hard.
“I think, with the prospect of participating as captain at Euro 2016, his motivation and concentration will return. It is important that Bastian is fully internalised at some point.
“Competition is fierce for Bastian’s position, as we have seen at the World Cup. I assume that Bastian will play at the Euros. He is an important part of the team.
“We had a similar case with Sami Khedira, who was injured long before the World Cup. He played little but was still in Brazil. In the end, it depends on Bastian’s overall situation.”
Germany coach Joachim Low is also confident he can depend on his captain this summer.
“I am in constant contact with Bastian. The current injury does not worry me,” he said.
“Generally, it is good if players are recovering from their injuries completely. Often the risk of human injury is such that players return too early.
“I know Bastian’s absolute focus is the Euros, and I have every confidence that he will thoroughly prepare and do anything for it. We plan with him.”