Bastian Schweinsteiger's days at Manchester United appear to be numbered. Relegated to training with the reserves by new manager Jose Mourinho despite a contract with two years remaining, Schweinsteiger fueled speculation last week by proclaiming that Manchester United would be his "last club in Europe." The player hasn't given any public indication that he's looking to move right away despite the prospect of sitting out of top level competition for several months.
The European transfer window closes on Wednesday and reports overseas indicate that United would be open to accepting a relatively small transfer fee in order to move the German midfielder. Schweinsteiger's "last club in Europe" stance would certainly limit any buyers and that has led to assumptions that his next stop would be in the United States or China. Sports Illustrated reported last week that the Chicago Fire would be interested in him if he did make a move to MLS. That possibility is largely fueled by one the league's player acquisition mechanisms giving the Fire first crack. Chicago currently holds a Discovery claim on Schweinsteiger and sources confirm the SI report that there is interest.
With the MLS transfer window closed, the Fire or any other team in the league would not be able to add Schweinsteiger now unless the player were out of contract. It remains a possibility that United could buy out the remaining two years of his contract essentially freeing him to make a move now but that's not likely. MUFC paid a reported €9m transfer fee to Bayern Munich in 2015 for him. His annual salary of approximately $10m US could also be a stumbling block in an MLS move unless a new deal was negotiated.
It's more likely that if a deal is completed that it would occur during the upcoming January transfer window where the Fire are looking to be active in pursuing a veteran central midfielder. Schweinsteiger would fit the bill but he's also not the top choice on the Fire's winter wish list. They also hold the Discovery rights on PSV Eindhoven midfielder and Mexican international Andres Guaradado, who has publicly expressed interest in MLS. Guardado also has two years remaining on his contract and numerous potential suitors within the league. Expansion side Atlanta United is set to make a press for him and the two LA teams have also raised their hands according to league sources.
Schweinsteiger would pacify those who are looking for a big name attraction in Chicago but he doesn't come without risk. At 32 years old he's probably past his prime playing days considering a history of knee and leg injuries that have slowed him over the last two seasons. If healthy, he should be able to play at a high level in MLS but Mourinho may be sensing that he doesn't have enough to perform consistently in the top leagues. Before the move to Manchester United, he spent his entire career with Bayern Munich compiling an impressive 8 Bundesliga titles and 7 German Cup wins. He was also an integral part of Bayern's 2013 Champion's League winning side and was a member of Germany's 2014 World Cup winning team.
Guardado will turn 30 in September and is still playing at a high level with PSV and Mexico. An SI report pegged his potential MLS salary at a more manageable $4m per year on top of a transfer fee for securing him from PSV. He can play in central midfield and on the outside and would click all the boxes necessary to be a hit in Chicago. If the Fire want Guardado, the trick now would be in convincing him that a move to MLS in January would be more attractive in Chicago than it would be in Atlanta.
The Fire will be in the market for a potential "big" signing this winter but have failed to come up with one during the well publicized pursuits of Jermaine Jones and Dider Drogba. Landing either Schweinsteiger or Guardado would help on the pitch, make some headlines and help assure supporters that the club is serious about regaining its status in MLS. If either of the two end up in the US playing anywhere but Chicago while the Fire are left holding another bag of TAM it will lead to more questions and even more vociferous discontent.
The Fire and the league can't afford to have the Chicago market continuing to flounder on and off the field. The January window looms larger than ever.