Bastian Schweinsteiger has revealed he is flattered by comparisons to Xavi and Andres Iniesta, but believes he is a different type of player to the Barcelona midfield extraordinaires. The 27-year-old Germany international has been repeated likened to the two Spaniards by his Bayern Munich coach Jupp Heynckes, who took over at the Allianz Arena last summer.
“He is the heart of the team, a midfielder with outstanding tactical ability,” the 66-year-old said of Schweinsteiger earlier this season. “He always makes the right decisions. He is on par with Iniesta and Xavi.”
Schweini responded to Bayern’s official website: “They're both terrific players, no question about that. But I regard myself as a little bit different, especially in physical terms. I do win a few balls in the air, simply due to my physical stature. And I also come up with different solutions compared to them. But obviously I know what Jupp is trying to say.”
Schweinsteiger, who has made over 350 appearances for Bayern, his only club, since making debuting in 2002, also returned the compliments, praising the job Heynckes has done in reviving Bayern. The Bavarian giants finished third last campaign, ten points behind first-placed Borussia Dortmund, but after finishing 2011 with three straight victories, they currently sit top of the Bundesliga, three points clear of both the defending champions and third-placed Schalke.
“He always keeps his cool and a sense of perspective,” Schweinsteiger said of Heynckes. “He's also incredibly knowledgeable and very good at putting himself in a player's shoes.
“He prefers a harmonious atmosphere, but there have been times when he's really laid into the team and pointed out our mistakes. That's very important.”
Champions League the top goal
Schweinsteiger has been linked with a big-money January transfer to a host of Europe’s most powerful clubs, including Real Madrid, Manchester United and particularly AC Milan. However, Heynckes and Bayern chairman Karl-Heinz Rummenigge have insisted their industrious No31 is going nowhere as they chase an elusive treble.
Aside from the Bundesliga, Bayern are away to Stuttgart in the DFB-Pokal quarter-finals on 8 February, before facing Basel over two legs in the last 16 of the UEFA Champions League, whose final will unfold at the Allianz Arena on 19 May. And with UEFA EURO 2012 upcoming, Schweinsteiger could get his hands on four trophies this summer.
Asked which one he would most like to lift, he responded: “That's hard to say, because all four are desirable. If I was forced to pick one, I'd say the Champions League. It's my personal priority, because I've yet to win it.
“There’s still a very long way to go. We'll need a little bit of luck, even though I hate falling back on fortune. In the first instance, we have to beat FC Basel. If we play to our potential and quality, we'll go through. But then you start facing the likes of Barcelona and Real. Those are always extremely tight games which can go either way.”
Turning to the Bundesliga title race, Schweinsteiger added: “Provided we stay as focused and keep it as tight as we have done for long stretches so far, we’ll be a long way down that road. But we need to work on dominating matches for the full 90 minutes.
"Twelve consecutive games without conceding a goal was very good indeed, and that should be our benchmark. I'm 100 per cent convinced we'll have an excellent second half to the season.“
Schweinsteiger, who has won 90 Germany caps, missed the last two months of 2011 through a shoulder injury, but is expected to be at Heynckes’s dispoal when Bayern return to action away to Borussia Monchengladbach, who are four points off the pace in fourth, on 20 January.
Click this Classic Players link to read about the superb careers of Bayern greats Franz Beckenbauer, Paul Breitner, Sepp Maier, Lothar Matthaus and Gerd Muller.