Bastian Schweinsteiger making Jose Mourinho twitch is a joy to behold
The German’s capacity to annoy Man United manager for next two years is enviable
Bastian Schweinsteiger during his Bayern Munich days playing against Jose Mourinho’s Real Madrid. Photo: Getty Images
I envy Bastian Schweinsteiger plenty; his talent, his fame, the iconic football status, his beautiful wife. There’s also that if the German footballer’s career stopped right now at 32 he can’t have regrets. He’s done it all. That makes the rest of his career pure gravy.
But I really envy “Schweini’s” capacity to make Jose Mourinho itch with temper for the next two years. And be paid close to €200,000 a week doing it!
According to “sources”, the Portuguese popinjay is “furious” that Schweinsteiger hasn’t already taken the hint and long since disappeared from Manchester United.
This after being made to train either alone or with the reserves, and having read, along with the rest of the world, how half a platoon of other Old Trafford midfielders are ahead of him in the pecking order.
Even if they all get crocked “The Special One” insists he will play one of the kids rather than turn to one of the finest and most decorated midfielders in world football for the last decade. Translated, “please go away now”.
It’s a football translation that never used to require a financial interpreter. But that was then and this now. And Mourinho is “furious” because, despite his best efforts, Schweinsteiger ain’t going anywhere on the not unreasonable basis that no one else is going to pay him €200,000 a week for two years and United are contractually obliged to do so.
So, guess what, despite Mrs Schweinsteiger’s global tennis commitments, or the manager’s decision to not include him in his Europa League squad, Schweinsteiger is staying put in Manchester, prepared to play this out for all it’s worth.
And it’s the most fascinating football story around because it’s got nothing to do with football and everything to do with easily recognisable “f- -k you” ego.
Schweinsteiger’s contract is presumably bulletproof, and with it comes the glorious bonus of watching the man who has gone out of his way to bullet him from Old Trafford do his nut for two years.
Given Mourinho’s control-freak history, just the sight of the German around the place is likely to curl his colon. And how much would any of us pay to see that on a daily basis?
That it is Mourinho, the prince of narcissism himself, at the centre of a yarn harking back to supposedly more sentimental football days is actually very funny.
The reality of modern top-flight football is that sentiment is superfluous in the face of the bottom-line, something Schweinsteiger has also learned well and quickly, and long before now.
For all the indignant platitudes from his former club about a great player being disrespected, Bayern Munich were the ones who sold him once Pep Guardiola decided the man who had just led his country to a superb World Cup success was losing his legs.
It may be the one thing messrs Mourinho and Guardiola ever agree on, that and their fluctuating managerial attitudes to sentiment when it suits them, which in turn makes Schweinsteiger’s preparedness to sit and draw the money similarly hard-headed and practical.
All he has got to lose is playing time which in the context of what he’s already achieved, and what he’s got to gain financially, puts him in an enviable position.
The manger’s sour displeasure is a sweet bonus.
It might not sit well with the shirt-kissing brigade, but anyone in such a position would play a similarly good hand to its best advantage, Mourinho included. The manager isn’t going to lose his job over it, just a little face, which will nag such a famously petulant figure.
Pogba didn’t lay a glove on him that night in Marseilles. Schneiderlin was on the bench. Carrick was at home. So was Herrera. And Fellaini was probably busy practising his uneasy imitation of what a top-class central midfield player is supposed to look like. And this is the German’s Old Trafford competition?
Mourinho has made a point of excluding Schweinsteiger partly because he probably believes the player is “gone” but possibly also as a way of asserting his Old Trafford authority.
And, yes, the German isn’t a long-term prospect. Neither, though, is Ibrahimovic, except age doesn’t seem to count when the manager has been seen to pick you.
What is indisputable is that Schweinsteger is the real deal in proven achievement. He also appears to retain at least some of the old fire left judging on Euro 2016.
And great players do possess the sort of pride that makes them an uneasy fit for the bench no matter how remunerative it is.
Surely United’s midfield is a long way from being able to afford to ignore putting that bruised pride to productive use.
Mourinho’s determination to dump the player is increasingly looking like a case of cutting off his nose to spite his face.
Except all this is about face and, of course, money.