Germany’s captain was stood hunched, flowers in hand and tears down the cheek. Bastian Schweinsteiger was alone, lost in the moment as applause elongated around him.
His name had thrice been parroted loudly by the crowd here at Borussia Park after a montage of his Greatest Hits; the goals, the hugs with great friend Lukas Podolski and that embrace with Angela Merkel inside the Maracana two years ago after one of this country’s finest individual performances of all time.
From there, minutes before kick-off of an ultimately inconsequential friendly win against Finland, Schweinsteiger lost it. His face puffed, his arm attempting to wipe away the tears during genuine raw emotion seldom seen inside football stadia.
For one night his troubles at club level, and wandering thoughts to life in Major League Soccer, were forgotten, certainly during a party with friends planned in nearby Dusseldorf afterwards.
‘I didn’t expect that emotion,’ Schweinsteiger blubbered on the pitch. ‘Thank you all for coming here. I’m feeling so thankful and we’ll see each other in the future again.’
This ended up being such a celebration of him that one fan was allowed to dart 40 yards after hurdling the advertising hoardings to stop the game and claim a selfie. The referee shrugged, the stewards ambled. Roars greeted the offender’s sense of occasion on being led away by security staff.
And by the time Schweinsteiger came off – minutes after the photographic interlude – he was beaming, taking it all in. They rose as one to salute him off, Joachim Low opening his arms in readiness.
It was an evening about him, to leave Manchester United behind for a little while. ‘Your passion and your spirit have embossed the team, Basti. We say thanks and are sad.’