14 December ~ Bastian Schweinsteiger has just signed a fat new five-year contract with Bayern Munich, extending a stay with the team that began back in 1998 when he was 14 years old. The player declared that it would be more of a challenge to win the Champions League with Bayern than with Real Madrid or Inter, the teams that were reportedly most interested in signing him. But there was another far more important factor keeping him in Bavaria – his love of the club toilets.
"When I arrive at the [Bayern headquarters] on the Säbener Strasse," Schweinsteiger said, "I feel right at home. I know all the employees from A to Z, and I know where the toilets are." There's definitely something to be said for this. Imagine you're a top professional player earning just under £150,000 a week (Schweini's new salary) and you come to work on a Monday morning only to find Arjen Robben standing in reception waiting for you with his hands on his hips. You can be sure he's going to demand to know why you didn't pass to him in the 67th minute on Saturday when he was free on the left. But if you know exactly where the bog is, you can hold up your hand and say "Just a second, mate, the pipes are full", and then you duck into the can before he's had the chance to waylay you. And you stay there until he's been distracted by the posse of Interpol agents looking for Franck Ribéry.
Men are creatures of habit, and there's a reassuring comfort in staking out a regular pew in the work place. A break in routine could have been enough to throw Schweinsteiger off form if he'd moved to Madrid and discovered that all the toilets had personalised notes saying things like: "Cristiano's arse cheeks only to touch this surface. Cristiano WILL find out if you dump here. Toilets for new kids in Block Z." That's assuming he would have found the toilets in the first place in such a huge structure. The German midfielder doubtless envisioned being late for his first training session because he was running around the Bernabéu catacombs frantically looking for the loo. And then there would have been the nudges and the cruel, knowing grins from his new team-mates when he ran out to join them. Imagine the blow to a player's confidence when he's even lower down in the pecking order than Sami Khedira.
Never mind loyalty, lucrative deals or sporting ambition. The reason Carlos Tévez keeps picking fights and roving from club to club is that he can't find a team with a latrine where he feels relaxed enough to make any noise he wants. Wayne Rooney was not prevented from leaving Old Trafford by a new multi-million pound contract, but by an agreement to convert a former boot cupboard into an exact replica of his childhood Croxteth crapper. And it's a well known fact that Lionel Messi was lured to Barcelona by the club's boast that every last one of the Camp Nou's cludgies is equipped with Charmin Ultra Soft.
When wantaway strikers and unsettled playmakers lobby their agents for a move, it has nothing to do with greed. It's the toilets, Mr Chairman. Take care of that and serial badge-kissing will follow with the speed of a flushed stool heading for the open sea. Provide a comforting environment where a footballer can breathe out and utter with impunity the words "Ah Christ, that's better", and you will be a man in possession of a happy, settled team. Thanks to Mr Schweinsteiger's frank confession, clubs now know that their priority is to handle their players' most basic needs. It's no exaggeration to claim that the teams upgrading their john facilities now are the European champions of tomorrow. Ian Plenderleith