Seven goals. Eleven assists, Three trophies. German Footballer of the Year. All of that came in 2012/13, the peak of Bastian Schweinsteiger's powers, and that player is now gone.
Not only gone because he is due to dress for Manchester United. Not gone because his 31st birthday is in three weeks time. That player is gone because his fitness issues no longer made him Bastian Schweinsteiger: one of the best and most reliable midfielders in the world.
Bayern Munich had to act, and that is what they did. They signed Sebastian Rode to a four year deal in January of 2014. They got Pierre-Emile Højbjerg the first team experience he needed to become a Bayern star. They paid a relatively big fee for Joshua Kimmich in January 2015, even before the 20-year-old grasped his spot in Germany's midfield at the U21 Euros.
Those moves where the lubricant for the big pill they inevitably had to swallow: after 17 years together, Bayern had to move on from Bastian Schweinsteiger.
He will always be the bleach blonde Fußballgott who is the most complete central midfielder Bayern has ever had. He will always be the pure-blooded Bavarian whose blood cells are miniature Bayern crests. However, his ankle and knee issues over the past two years do not allow him to be the reliable midfield player Bayern needs right now.
The past Bayern seasons have missed the outstanding player Schweinsteiger once was. The common denominator is Pep Guardiola, appointed right after Schweinsteiger's best season. While some of his tactics may not have utilized Schweinsteiger's best attributes, the Bayern manager is not responsible for the 50 matches Schweinsteiger had to miss due to injury. Outside of some kiddie glove treatment with Schweinsteiger's fitness, Guardiola played the Fußballgott whenever he got the chance, leaving a special place for Schweinsteiger in his tactical dreams whenever the tenured midfielder was healthy.
The times Schweinsteiger was healthy was a fraction of before, the Fußballgott only able to display his divine contributions in roughly half of Bayern's matches over the past two seasons. His inability to stay fit contributed to Bayern's necessity to acquire Xabi Alonso, and now the bearded orchestrator could be the reason for his departure. As SPORT BILD author Raimund Hinko eluded to in his weekly "Meine Bayern" column, Alonso was running more (167.55 km for Schweinsteiger in 1361 minutes vs. 257.31 km for Alonso in 1963 minutes), touching the ball more (1535 touches for Schweinsteiger vs. 3080 for Alonso), and contributing more (1158 passes for Schweinsteiger vs. 2470 passes for Alonso) for Bayern last season.
Alonso was not the only coefficient of course; add not only Højbjerg, Kimmich, and Rode, but Thiago Alcantara, Philipp Lahm, and Gianluca Gaudino, and Bayern have a very crowded center of the park. With young players craving playing time like newly hatched chicks, someone needed to leave the nest. That falcon was Schweinsteiger, and Manchester United is giving him the opportunity to spread his wings for a little while longer.
Thus, Bayern had to do something they rarely do in the transfer market. Schweinsteiger will be the first player to move from Bayern to an English club since Owen Hargreaves in 2007, and he could be the third-most lucrative sale Bayern has ever made. The rarity of the transfer highlights the uniqueness off Schweinsteiger's situation, indicating this transfer is more of a one-off situation rather than a growing trend.
Schweinsteiger's impending departure is not an indictment on the player he is, for as he showed for Germany during the World Cup, he can still bring it. When he could bring it was the issue, and Bayern had to move on from him perhaps a year too early rather than a year too late.