Schweinsteiger: "Nothing compares to lifting the World Cup"
As Bastian Schweinsteiger prepares for his third season in MLS with Chicago Fire, he took time from Madrid pre-season training to talk to AS.
AS: So, Bastian, how are you? How does it feel to be here in Madrid?
BS: It’s very good. It’s not the warmest time of the year but it’s good to be here in Madrid – it’s obviously a great city.
AS: I think this is your seventeenth year as a professional in football, is that right?
BS: You mean the pre-seasons? I think there were even more if you include being with the national team as well. I’ve done many pre-seasons and with Bayern Munich, you have two pre-seasons – in summer and in winter so, I think the number’s actually higher.
AS: So, almost 20 years playing football… that’s a long time!
BS: Yes, yes. It is. It’s a long time.
AS: How do you feel about your career now that you are entering the final stage of your playing days?
BS: I’m very happy with how everything has turned out. Obviously when I was a child and playing football, I was dreaming about to one day play at a high level - and also to remain at that level. Sometimes, it easy to get to a high level but it’s not so easy to stay there so I’m very grateful to have also played for some very good teams. But it all goes by so fast, at the end of the day, I must say.
AS: Do you feel that your playing career is over, or are you thinking about carrying on?
BS: I’ve chosen to do it like I always have done in the most recent years – I’ve always more or less decided whether I am going to continue or not during the last part of the season.
AS: So you haven’t decided yet?
BS: No, no. We’re at the start of the season so I will see how everything works out and if I still enjoy playing, and then I will decide.
AS: Are you still enjoying playing football?
BS: Yes, I enjoy being out on the practice field, training and being with the ball at my feet. Obviously, playing in America is very different to playing in Europe. But it’s very interesting.
AS: You’ve been a world champion and a European champion – so that experience must be a great influence for the rest of players in the team?
BS: Yes I try of course to give my experience to the players here. But everyone has to build their own career and develop their personality. I’ve seen so many things – not only in football so I try to share my experiences with them.
AS: Is Major League Soccer growing a lot?
BS: For me, this is my third season so I don’t know what it was like 10 years ago. We have one or two players who have spent more years than me playing in MLS but what I can say is that there are teams who are doing a really good job, there are nice stadiums, the average attendance in MLS is higher than in Serie A or the French League so that’s good to see. And I think soccer in general is coming up in the whole of the United States and there is more interest among younger people.
AS: And it’s such a different culture, compared to Europe… the football’s different, the atmosphere…
BS: Hmm, I think it’s got a lot to do with the fact that the history is much shorter than Europe’s – you know, LaLiga, Bundeliga, Serie A, the Premier League… they’ve existed for many years. The MLS was started in 1988 so it’s still quite a young league but it will make history probably. But it’s still young and it still has to develop.
AS: During the 20 years of your playing career, what is your best memory?
BS: Obviously, when you lift the World Cup, or when you play for your home club for the first time – which in my case was Bayern Munich. But I always say that, for me, my motivation was always to make the people, the fans happy. You played football with your heart and your personality and so that’s why I’d say that when we lost the 2012 final against Chelsea, then won the following year – that was a huge thing for us because, going from the disappointment of the year before to win everything and do the treble was huge for us.
AS: For Spanish football fans, you are seen as an example for being one of the most representative German players and for you past with Bayern Munich – considering the tradition between Real Madrid and Bayer. You scored the deciding penalty in the shoot-out at the Bernabéu in 2012. There’s always been a strong rivalry between Bayern and Real Madrid…
BS: Absolutely and you know it’s great to have this kind of rivalry between huge clubs in Europe – especially with Real Madrid. Bayern and Madrid have a long history and I remember a lot of matches between us. They were always very close games and I think that’s what the people around the world like to see.
AS: Do you think they are the two biggest teams in Europe right now, or in history, generally speaking?
BS: In general… it’s difficult to say. Of course, Real Madrid is a huge club. They’ve won the Champions League for the last three years and that’s unbelievable and many things are going in the right way for them. But every club has a history – for example Juventus also has a great history and other clubs as well. It’s great to have these big clubs in Europe who are consistently at the top level. At the end of the day, in the Champions League, you always see Real Madrid, Bayern Munich, Barcelona… more than the other clubs. So it’s good to see a club like Real Madrid maintaining their level, and being so consistent.
AS: Did you ever have the chance to play in Spain?
BS: To be honest, I don’t really like it when people talk about what they could have done or what club they could have played for in interviews. I personally don’t like that. I always made my decisions and represented the kind of the teams I played for. It’s a nice country, I like Spain a lot. LaLiga is very interesting of course but what can I say? I played for Bayern Munich and Manchester United and those were the decisions I made; I also won the Champions League with Bayern Munich.
AS: Who are the best players you have played with and against?
BS: I think the best players I have played alongside are Manuel Neuer and Franck Ribéry. Against? That’s tough… you have some players who play differently for their club than with their national team. I don’t really have any names that spring to mind.
AS: What about the Messi-Cristiano Ronaldo rivalry?
BS: Yes but you know when we played Barcelona, sometimes we won, sometimes we lost – and the same against Real Madrid. With Germany, we beat Argentina and we usually beat Portugal… Obviously both of them are great players and athletes but I cannot single out one player. I was impressed when I played against Real Madrid in 2003. I came on in the second half – it was the day when Madrid won 1-0 and Zidane scored a goal after five minutes and I was very impressed when I played against Zidane. I like the way he moved and how he controlled the ball.
AS: He’s a reference for midfielders all over the world…
BS: Yes, and I think that’s good. He’s one of the best players sport has ever seen and I had a chance to play against him once and I really was impressed by him.
AS: Last question. What do you think happened to Germany at the last World Cup? It was a big surprise to see the reigning champions underperform and go out.
BS: Yes, obviously there are many reasons you know. In Germany we are undergoing a generational change – we have many, many good players right now, quality players – like you have in Spain as well but we need to pass on the genetics to this young generation and teach them the basics of what German football is about – the aspects which other countries are jealous of. Like our determination - we fight right up until the end and these kinds of qualities. So it’s kind of a moment of change and that takes a while. Maybe on the one hand it was good that it happened when it did and now we can work on building the team back again. I’m very sure that the German national team will be back up there where it belongs to be
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