The last 13 minutes of last week's shock 3-1 Champions League defeat to BATE Borisov was hardly the game in which many envisaged Bastian Schweinsteiger making his 400th appearance for Bayern Munich. It might be rash to suggest that Bayern lost the game because of his absence but on his current form, it's hardly a radical suggestion. In late September of this year, Schweinsteiger was quoted as saying he would "never make peace with last season". Most modern footballers wouldn't. They would drift and forever be labelled as "shadows of themselves". Bayern finished second place in all three competitions that they were in, with Schweinsteiger missing one of those penalties in the Champions League final. Following this was a forgetful European Championships where questions were asked about his form, his fitness and most importantly his place in the side. Herr Schweinsteiger has taken rather a well-rounded battering for the majority of this year and yet has started this season in nothing short of superb form.
According to the former winger, Borussia Dortmund's rise has been "a huge incentive" for Bayern and having had the privilege of watching Schweinsteiger live this year, there seems to be no doubt they've been an incentive for him too. He appears to have shrugged off an ankle injury that had plagued him for some time and has burst back into life, and surely back into Joachim Loew's thoughts. Interestingly enough, it was apparently that same old ankle injury that prevented him from starting against BATE Borisov. I think Heynckes's disappointment in Martinez suggests that he could have played Schweinsteiger, but he chose not to. As I said previously, this isn't the sole reason Bayern lost the game, but his presence may well have made a difference. His display against VfL Wolfsburg this season had echoes of the 2010 World Cup when Schweinsteiger was revered as the best in the business. He had 103 touches of the ball, scored his 50th goal for Bayern and orchestrated like we remember him doing. As a unit Bayern looked as destructive as ever but when you take into account all that has happened to Schweinsteiger in the last year, his improvement and yes, it is an improvement, is incredible. It would have been easy for him to lie down, let his year engulf him and struggle to respond to the EUR40 million arrival of Javi Martinez. Along with Luis Gustavo (who has started in remarkable fashion) though, the pair have staved off the magic surrounding the young Spaniard and have thrown down the proverbial gauntlet. Interestingly, Martinez has yet to pick it up.
The 28 year old has two great feet, an attribute far rarer than people realise and is clinical in the tackle. He has 107 international caps to his name and although he doesn't wear the material armband, he certainly wears the emotional one. One other statistic worthy of note is the fact he has never seen a straight red for Bayern Munich, despite the toughness of his tackle. Barring a lengthy injury absence, this could be one of Bastian Schweinsteiger's best seasons to date. Pivotally, he is in the mood and his teammates have not only recognised that but have responded in similar fashion.