Chicago Fire general manager Nelson Rodriguez has revealed that Bastian Schweinsteiger has ‘had nothing but good things to say’ about Manchester United.
Schweinsteiger will join the Fire as a designated player on one-year deal for a reported salary of US dollars 4.5million (£3.6million) upon completion of his visa formalities, with Rodriguez convinced he is worth every penny both as a player and a person.
“It is not often you can add a player of Bastian’s pedigree but also someone who we feel can be the embodiment of the club we are and the club we aspire to be,” Rodriguez said. “He is a gentleman and a sportsman.”
A move away from United had seemed inevitable for Schweinsteiger for some time after he was largely frozen out under Jose Mourinho, the former Germany captain even being written off as an asset in the club’s accounts at one point.
But Rodriguez said neither the World Cup winner nor United were agitating for the move to happen, with the Fire instead taking the initiative.
“Bastian has had nothing but good things to say about his experience at United and his relationship with his team-mates and the coaching staff,” he said.
“He clearly has great affection for the fans as well. Knowing the competitor he is but not wishing to speak for him, I have no doubt he should have played more and would have wanted to play more, but he didn’t speak of frustration.
“It was a long process but part of that was Bastian’s desire and insistence to remain with United for as long as he could. He had goals there and he wanted to meet those goals.”
Indeed, Rodriguez said Chicago tried to make the deal happen in January, only to be made to wait.
“United were, with good reason, reluctant to let him leave,” he said. “They were competing on all fronts and he was regarded as an important member of the club, but over time we were able to wear them down…
“We made it clear if we couldn’t close it now we would likely move on. And the three parties came together.”
Despite the ongoing perception of Major League Soccer as a retirement home for aging European stars, the average age of designated players – the big-earning stars who are exempt from salary cap rules – has tumbled in recent years, making the 32-year-old Schweinsteiger an exception.
However, Rodriguez had no doubt the former Bayern Munich star still has plenty to give.
“This year we’ve seen Roger Federer and Serena Williams at 35 winning grand slams and impressively,” he said. “We saw the 39-year-old Tom Brady win a Super Bowl. You can project on to Bastian what you want.
“At 32-years-old he was playing for one of the biggest clubs in the world and when he was asked to play he was able to play at a high level despite not doing so regularly.”
He even suggested the recent rest might help Schweinsteiger prolong his career.
“Some have thought that it might serve him well, that this has given his body and mind time to rejuvenate,” he said. “There are no guarantees, but there are no guarantees when you sign a 25-year-old either.”
The Fire finished last in the Eastern Conference last season, winning just seven of their 34 matches as they undergo a rebuilding process with a young squad.
Rodriguez is confident Schweinsteiger can play a key role in that on and off the field.
“Bastian comes with an entirely different standard of excellence and this is a call to our team that we need to me that expectation,” he said.
“We have found a willing contributor, someone with the spirit of generosity who is going to help us achieve our owners’ vision for a club of excellence founded on respect, integrity and dignity.
“There’s an old sports adage in America that nice guys finish last. He is a genuinely nice man, and he does not finish last.”