The Fire are going to Soldier Field.
Bastian Schweinsteiger isn’t coming with them.
The legendary midfielder/defender announced his retirement Tuesday. Schweinsteiger, signed as a Designated Player in 2017, played the final three seasons of his storied career with the Fire.
“Saying goodbye as an active player makes me feel a little nostalgic, but I am also looking forward to the exciting challenges that await me soon,” Schweinsteiger wrote on Twitter. “I will remain faithful to football.”
The Time has now come: I would like to thank both, you and my teams @FCBayern, @ManUtd, @ChicagoFire and @DFB_Team and of course @AnaIvanovic and my family for their support!— Bastian Schweinsteiger (@BSchweinsteiger) October 8, 2019
Thank you! pic.twitter.com/jNSrXGNpxF
Schweinsteiger was a part of Germany’s 2014 World Cup champion and also won the Champions League and multiple German titles with Bayern Munich. Because of that, his arrival in 2017 added gravitas to the Fire and MLS.
“Bastian’s one of the great players in the history of our sport, and it’s been an honor to have him in our league,” MLS commissioner Don Garber said. “The time I spent with him, I was just so impressed with not just the quality of the player, but the quality of the man.”
Schweinsteiger, 35, told coach Veljko Paunovic about two hours before Sunday’s season finale in Orlando he was ending his decorated career, and then told his teammates after the match. Paunovic said it was a “difficult moment” when he found out, and that it was emotional after the game when the other Fire players were informed.
“It was a surprise, and we didn’t see it coming because until the last moment that he was in the game, he was giving his best,” Paunovic said. “He was giving his all.”
Paunovic, Schweinsteiger’s final coach, praised him without interruption for two straight minutes when he met the media on the Soldier Field grass. He recalled his professionalism and vision, but focused on the example Schweinsteiger set for his teammates.
“The seeds that he left behind him, I think that’s the biggest thing for this club and for that locker room (when) they shared time and life with him,” Paunovic said.
With Schweinsteiger gone, the Fire have at least one Designated Player slot open for 2020. But that doesn’t mean replacing Schweinsteiger will be easy.
“You can’t,” Paunovic said. “I think it’s impossible. Basti’s unique. He’s a complete player. Total player.”
Owner Joe Mansueto said he would “love” to see Schweinsteiger stay affiliated with the team in some capacity.
“He’s such a wonderful ambassador,” Mansueto said. “Not only one of the world’s greatest soccer players, but an equally great human being.”