Manchester United have as usual been linked to a vast number of players, and one of them to enter the headlines is Bayern Munich's catalyst Bastian Schweinsteiger. Having won everything that is to win, including the World Club Cup, Champions League and seven Bundesliga titles, he should be the perfect fit with experience and winning mentality... right?
No thriving in the thirties
Well, not necessarily so. First of all, Schweinsteiger will be 31 by the start of August. In other words, he's past his peak, with only a handful of years left of his playing career. Despite him probably would've matched perfectly with Michael Carrick between about 2006 and 2012 (or something not far off), that ship has sailed. Or at least it should have.
A few examples of why signing a 31-year-old hardly is the brightest idea could be interpreted from these graphs:
— Christoffer Johansen (@bojochris) November 10, 2014
As we see, the age peak is between 25 and 27 years, which isn't far off the mini-analysis of the Champions League finalists Juventus and Barcelona, which will be mentioned later. The modern day game, even different to football ten years ago, is improving the demands for tempo and physical capacity, which is declining dramatically at about 30.
This is fuelled by the numbers of those who started the first knock-out round in the World Cup in Brazil last year. As Christoffer Johansen points out, the decline at about 30 is blatant - they aren't rated or trusted by the managers - and it's not likely that all footballers become worse technically or mentally just because they enter their 30s. It's down to the physical capacity, ability to move the feet at an reoccurring intense pace for 90 minutes.
Aldersfordelingen på alle 160 utespillerne som startet 1/8-finalene i VM 2014: 30-års stupet visualisert. pic.twitter.com/gUJ65mxaQr— Christoffer Johansen (@bojochris) July 1, 2014
On top of the graphs, let's have a look at the midfielders who started in the Champions League final, which is the level United should aim for. Juventus had Pogba, 22, Marchisio, 29, Vidal, 28 and Pirlo at 36 in the middle of the park. On the other half were Barcelona, featuring Busquets, 25, Rakitic, 27, and Iniesta, 31. In other words, the central midfielders were 28 years of age on average, three years younger than Schweinsteiger, nearly four years younger than he will be when United potentially could feature in the Champions League final again.
In other words he's both past his own peak and the peak of the average top class footballer/midfielder.
The injury issue
Additionally, he's injury-prone. Over the past two seasons, the German has missed an incredible 38 club games through injury. That's exactly a Premier League season. (In fairness, there aren't many sides in football who have played more games than Bayern Munich during this time, with the World Club Cup on the top of successful runs in the Champions League, DFB cup and so on.)
However, United have been haunted by the injury ghost in the past five years or so. Who does remember Fletcher Carrick and De Laet in defence when getting battered by Fulham in 2009? Or losing out to Blackburn with Rafael and Park in midfield? Eventually the never-ending merry-go-round of centre-back injuries including Jones, Evans and Smalling in recent years? Adding an injury-prone old-boys player on the top of this will hardly make things brighter. Chelsea walked the league through barely rotating at all, United will never be able to do the same unless significant issues are adressed at Carrington.
The third con against signing the Auberadofr youth product is inevitably motivation. Robin van Persie worked wonders in his first season at all Trafford, which was significantly down to his desperate craving for a Premier League winners' medal, and pushed himself to the absolute maxium to reach the acquired target. Will Schweinsteiger provide the same desire to win the league? By all means, probably not, he's won everything already. He could do with a decent sign-on-fee and a final pay-day in the dawn of his career though, which might be a reason why he eventually might join - but that's inevitably joining a football club on the wrong grounds, in my opinion.
Not the worst, just not the best
With that said, I don't think the 30-year-old is a bad footballer, actually he could be a decent addition to the squad. But United don't need more squad players, the club is in an urgent need of players who stand out and will improve the starting line-up from the day they set foot in Manchester.
Summa summarum, he could probably do a job, but paying over the odds for a has-been who needs replacing within a few years, nor is able to play 90 minutes twice a week, hardly seems the brightest idea. There certainly has to be better options out there, with Southampton's Frenchman Morgan Schneiderlin as the most obvious suggestion according to various press sources these days.