Bayern's Bastian Schweinsteiger, always a dynamic attacking threat from midfield, has matured this season into a two-way player of huge importance to Germany's World Cup ambitions.
Schweinsteiger is in line for a pivotal role in South Africa
In previous seasons, the idea of Bastian Schweinsteiger taking over any of Michael Ballack's duties – either as team leader or as midfield fulcrum – might have prompted nervous laughter.
He's quick, powerful and capable of turning a game single-handedly, but Schweinsteiger has had a reputation for going missing in big matches – not something you want in a central figure in major tournaments.
However this season has seen a new maturity bloom in the player once known as "Schweini" - a tag he's known to dislike and is finally growing out of.
Bayern coach Lous van Gaal has moved him in from the wing to a new role as a holder-playmaker, and it's planted in that middle ground that Schweinsteiger has blossomed. He is now the player that almost all Bayern's offensive moves pass through, and is one of a rare breed of creative midfielders seems to relish the physical side of the game.
What's more, Schweinsteiger's new deeper central vantage point has showed his skill at anticiaption and game vision - surprise in a player once though of as somewhat impetuous.
Schweinsteiger's performances have made him a fan favorite for Bayern and Germany
Even before Ballack's injury ruled him out of the World Cup, Schweinsteiger was beginning to emerge at the Germany captain's most likely successor in his midfield role.
Since making his international debut in 2004, Schweinsteiger has become a mainstay of the Germany team and has shown his international class in superior performances at Euro 2004 and the World Cup in 2006.
Schweinsteiger struggled somewhat during Germany's Euro 2008 campaign, having earned a suspension after a red card in Germany's second group stage game, a loss to Croatia. But when he returned to the line-up against Portugal in the quarter-finals, his impact was undeniable. Schweinsteiger scored the opener, and set up headed goals from Miroslav Klose and Ballack with curling free kicks in the side's eventual 3-2 victory.
In the semi-final Germany won over Turkey, it was a similar story - it was a Schweinsteiger strike that drew the team level after they'd gone a goal down.
While his primary role in South Africa will be to play deep in midfield rather than up front poaching goals, Schweinsteriger still knows how to makes dangerous runs and has a wicked shot from distance. He's a good luck charm too, it seems. Whenever Schweinsteiger scores for Germany, they win.
Author: Nick Amies
Editor: Matt Hermann