It hasn't taken Jose Mourinho long to have created a bit of uproar over his actions. Just over a month since officially taking charge at Old Trafford, his treatment of Bastian Schweinsteiger has provoked some stinging criticism. It is escalating to the point where FifPro member, Dejan Stefanovic, told the BBC World Service that if this behaviour was carried out in his native country, Slovenia, then Mourinho could face jail for bullying.
Mourinho could be jailed in Slovenia
Last week Mourinho excluded nine players from the first team training group including Schweinsteiger, a move that clearly indicated the German did not feature in his plans. Other established first team squad members, such as Paddy McNair and Adnan Januzaj were also exiled. In some respects, that is Mourinho's prerogative. He is making changes, and he has decided he will focus on the personnel in his plans. It is a cold way of doing things, but Stefanovic thinks it goes beyond coldness. He said today -
"It's clear bullying," boldly stated Stefanovic. He went on to add that had Mourinho carried out the actions in his native Slovenia, "we would have indicted Mourinho and asked for the highest penalty" which is "three years in prison," before finally adding that "this is clearly meant to discourage Bastian."
Stefanovic feels that Mourinho is "setting a bad example," and that he I "would take it to the ordinary court. In our case, the penal code is quite clear."
Stefanovic states that if there is bullying and harassment, "there's a prison sanction, a maximum of three years in prison."
The Slovenian had some advice for the German international, which was to "turn to the Professional Footballers' Association and file a complaint." he stated that he would also "seek penalty for Mourinho."
Stefanovic continued by saying that all the players in the first team "have to train with the coaches of the first team at the same place, at the same time as all other team-mates."
He concluded with, "That's something that should be applied to each and every club and should be written within Fifa regulations."
Schweinsteiger not singled out
Strong words. Stefanovic is a lawyer, but it is hard to agree with his assessment that this is bullying. Had Schweinsteiger been the only one to be removed from first team training, then the case may hold more water, but Schweinsteiger was not alone. Mourinho has clearly decided on who he wants to work with going forward and the players have to accept that. They are professionals and paid handsomely.
However, it is hard to disagree - although many United fans do - that this is demeaning for someone of the stature of Schweinsteiger. He is 32, a classy and experienced footballer and has won the lot at club and international level. Training with under-21s at this stage of his career is probably not something he would have envisaged. It is hard to believe he is not a good influence on younger players, so excluding him or any first team player for that matter, is puzzling and a little distasteful.
Stefanovic's views that first team players should train with the first team squad are not as controversial as wanting Mourinho imprisoned. Gone are the days where apprentices do chores around the ground and clean the professional's boots. Yet a hierarchy still exists. Schweinsteiger, without question, belongs with senior pro's.
Mourinho has upset Bavarians
It isn't just Stefanovic that has spoken out, there is much noise coming from Schweinsteiger's Bavarian home. His brother, Tobias, fired a not-so-thinly veiled shot at Mourinho when he Tweeted "No respect" earlier this week, and it was probably only a matter of time before Karl-Hienz Rummenigge stuck his oar in. He has done so in typically hypocritical fashion.
Rummenigge appears to enjoy trying to claim the moral high ground on various matters and now he has piped up over Schweinsteiger. Firstly, he claimed that Bayern Munich would welcome Schweinsteiger back if the player showed a willingness to return. That was as tactless as Mourinho's banishing act. If Schweinsteiger read those comments, he may well have got his hopes up.
However, the voice of reason, Carlo Ancelloti, did the sensible thing and dismissed Rummenigge's comments out of hand stating that Schweinsteiger and Bayern had a beautiful past, but it is in the past. Maybe the dismissal of Rummenigge's fantasy did not sit well, because today Rummenigge went back on the United offensive.
"I could hardly believe it" Rummenigge told German newspaper, Bild.
He says "One or two players" are going to "think long and hard in future about whether they want to go to such a club"
"Nothing like that has ever happened at Bayern Munich."
Bayern no angels
He has a point when he suggests new signings may be put off by Schweinsteiger's treatment, but it is unlikely to dissuade the majority of top class players. It was the inference that Bayern wouldn't do such a thing that suggest Rummenigge maybe has a touch of 'selective memory'. He must have forgotten that Felix Magath did exactly the same thing in 2006, when Schweinsteiger was 22 and fit as a butchers dog. Schweinsteiger nearly left the Bavarians as a result.
Another 'classy' move from Bayern came just last year, when Hans-Wilhelm Muller-Wohlfahrt quit the Bundesliga giants. He may not be particularly well known, but he was club doctor for 40 years. He left because he and his team were criticised and blamed by a certain Pep Guardiola for a Champions League defeat. Maybe morals only apply at certain times, like when your manager whom you would love to keep, is approaching his final year of his contract? Shades of Eva Carneiro, but lets not go there.
The point is that whilst Mourinho may conduct himself in an undignified manner at times, Bayern are hardly whiter than whit. From a sporting point of view, Bayern have turned the Bundesliga into a yearly procession after taking two of their rivals best players two seasons running. They helped decimate Borussia Dortmund, and whilst they may feel all was above board, the majority of non-Bayern fans don't. Rummenigge should perhaps focus on things closer to Bavaria before he throws his next stone.
The bottom line is that Schweinsteiger really does deserve better, yet can have few complaints. Footballers hold many cards in this money mad world, and I am sure he will get over this in time. Probably with a nice payday to boot. Mourinho deserves to stay out of jail, and manage United how he sees fit. He could work on his personal skills, but we shouldn't hold our breath. He has enough on his plate making United challengers. And Bayern? Well, quite simply they deserve Rummenigge.