Fresh from the announcement that Bastian Schweinsteiger will return to the Chicago Fire for a second year, general manager Nelson Rodriguez admitted it was a priority to bring the German back to Toyota Park.
It was confirmed on Wednesday that the 33-year-old former Bayern Munich and Manchester United midfielder would return to MLS for a second season, on a one-year deal, following the success of his maiden season with the Men in Red.
“For us, we felt it was a priority to bring Bastian back,” Rodriguez said on a conference call to the media on Thursday. “What he enables our team to do and the impact he had on the field and in the locker room, I’m pleased we were able to fulfill one of our priorities.”
Rodriguez also revealed negotiations with the German World Cup winner went smoothly, with both parties keen on maintaining the relationship that saw him score three goals and tally six assists in 24 games last term.
“I wish all our negotiations were as pleasant and as productive as they were for Bastian’s services and with his representation. He had clearly exhibited his class over his career, but I must say it is shared by his inner circle of people. I would also suggest that both parties were keenly interested in continuing the relationship and so I think that made things a lot easier as well.
“There are always little details that need to be worked out and I think that’s what prolonged the discussions, but I believe that we always, both parties, felt reasonably confident that we would continue together and I’m proud that we did so,” Rodriguez added.
Schweinsteiger’s signing follows news that fellow midfielder Dax McCarty agreed to a new two-year contract extension and that goalkeeper Richard Sanchez also agreed a two-year deal with the club. With the signing of Homegrown center back Grant Lillard and Thursday's trade for Rafael Ramos, the Fire’s roster for 2018 now stands at 22 players.
Schweinsteiger made two brief appearances from the bench in the final eight games of the season, after injury ruled him out of most of the run-in. In hindsight, Rodriguez admitted the club didn’t handle that injury as well as they would have liked, but he doesn’t have any concerns about the fitness of the midfielder coming into the new season.
“I don’t,” Rodriguez said when asked if he saw any risk in bringing Schweinsteiger back for another season. “No one seems to speak about David Villa’s age. I think Bastian demonstrated, when he was on the field, enormous qualities.
"I also have to admit that the soccer operations staff didn’t do a great job. We let Bastian convince us that he was ready to return where we should have been more conservative, and he reaggravated the same injury. So I don’t see that as an injury risk, I also think he will benefit by having a full preseason with us. I think he’ll benefit by understanding the nuance of the league this year having gone through it last year, so we’re very comfortable.”