— Basti Schweinsteiger (@BSchweinsteiger) July 12, 2015
By J Hutcherson (Jul 13, 2015) US Soccer Players – Bastian Schweinsteiger moving to Manchester United isn’t even remotely surprising. A super player swapping super clubs is business as usual, especially when it involves the likes of Bayern Munich and Manchester United. The only real criticism is that it’s a vertical move. Bayern might be down a Bastian, but they still have a Pep, a Robben, and a tight hold on the Bundesliga along with a fighting chance in the Champions League. Now, they also have the excuse that they lacked last season.
In return, Manchester United continues what super clubs do best. A continual rebuild around some of the biggest names in international soccer. After all, that’s the point of having a manager like Luis van Gaal.
Manchester United’s brief experiment with avoiding super team impulses ended with the firing of David Moyes. Their original response to Alex Ferguson’s retirement was to try to replicate what they did with Ferguson in a different era of professional soccer. Promote someone without the marquee or the baggage associated with being a super club coach. That might not work anymore at super club level, eventually costing United a season in the Champions League.
Enter van Gaal, a super coach by any standard in an era where no one is a mercenary anymore for moving from club to club and country to country. That van Gaal used to coach Bayern Munich is almost a footnote in the move for Schweinsteiger. That level of interplay is the standard at super club level, with Manchester United fully joining in the post-Ferguson era.
It used to be different at United. Even when they brought in an established player, it was seldom a vertical move. Eric Cantona joined the club from Leeds United. Peter Schmeichel from Brondby. Dwight Yorke from Aston Villa. The core of Ferguson’s first Champions League winners were products of Manchester United. Things change, and it’s no knock against United that they changed along with the times.
Now, relying on academy players over established stars is a quick way to slip down the table and miss out on the Champions League. In other words, it’s not even a choice anymore. Super clubs buy and sell at their own rarified level. It’s part of the game.
For Manchester United in the summer of 2015, that means the work has only started. Schweinsteiger, a fantasy acquisition for most of the Premier League, is simply a part in what van Gaal wants from his club. Other parts will follow in this window. Building by expensive acquisition is the new normal for clubs with money to spend as Financial Fair Play moves from strict regulation to mild suggestion. There’s no upper limit in European soccer. No hard cap, no luxury tax, and only another club’s unwillingness to sell.
Even that isn’t a surprise. The biggest rivals in the game swap players. There’s very little of the old animosity left anymore, at least on the business side. If the money is there, most clubs will consider a deal. It’s not even a question for how they’ll adapt after losing a marquee player. It’s what the player is worth and what another club is willing to pay. The clubs might be the true mercenaries, but in the current market driven world of soccer even that doesn’t seem like much of a criticism.
So Schweinsteiger moves from the best club in the Bundesliga to the club that would like once again to be the best club in the Premier League. Manchester United has the money and the motivation with the transfer window wide open. They’ll spend because that’s the only choice. This is no longer a game that rewards patience or economy.
J Hutcherson started covering soccer in 1999 and has worked as the general manager of the US National Soccer Team Players Association since 2002. Contact him email@example.com.
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