The Chicago Fire are banking on Bastian Schweinsteiger to lift them to a higher plane as he descends toward the end of his career.
The German soccer star joined the Fire from Manchester United on Monday, the MLS club announced on its website. Chicago signed Schweinsteiger, 32, to a one-year contract that will pay him $4.5 million in 2017, according to The Chicago Tribune’s Rich Campbell.
Schweinsteiger’s status as a 2014 FIFA World Cup winner with Germany, a 2013 UEFA Champions League winner with Bayern Munich and a former Manchester United player make his transfer one of MLS’ most high-profile in recent years. Only the signing of Cuauhtemoc Blanco, who played for Chicago from 2007-09, can rival Schweinsteiger’s in terms of instant buzz around the club.
Chicago finished last in MLS’ Eastern Conference in 2015 and 2016. Schweinsteiger will be expected to bolster the Fire’s midfield and use his wealth of experience to improve his new team on and off the field.
“This is a historic moment for our club,” Fire general manager Nelson Rodríguez said on the club website. “We have added one of the greatest champions in all of sports. Bastian’s talents, attitude, and character will be a perfect complement to our squad as we continue building a championship program.”
Yet, Schweinsteiger is on the downside of his career, with age and injury having taking their tolls on his body. After joining Manchester United from Bayern Munich in August 2015, Schweinsteiger played 31 games in all competitions last season, but manager Jose Mourinho froze him out of the first-team squad for all but four of the Red Devils’ 50 games in 2016-17. Schweinsteiger’s Manchester United contract was due to expire in July 2018, but the club happily allowed him to leave ahead of schedule.
Pending receipt of his U.S. visa and international (soccer) transfer certificate, Schweinsteiger could debut for the Fire as early as April 1 when they take on the Montreal Impact.
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