It has been a season of firsts for Bayer Leverkusen’s Benjamin Henrichs. After cementing his role as the Bundesliga club’s starting right back, the 19-year-old has also earned a call-up to the German national soccer team. Henrichs will be available for the team’s World Cup qualifier against San Marino and a friendly match against Italy next week.
A Wish Come True
Henrichs did not realize how large a soccer club Bayer Leverkusen was when he joined the team’s youth academy as a seven-year-old. However, as he worked his way through the system, he began to understand that his childhood dream of becoming a professional soccer player was a realistic possibility.
“It’s a wish come true,” Henrichs explained. “I used to walk in here as a ball kid, and now I hold the little kid’s hands.”
His first appearance for the senior team was a Bundesliga match away last season at Dortmund with its huge stadium, passionate fans, and intimidating atmosphere. Since then he has been able to slowly tune out the distractions and focus on his game play. Henrichs came through the youth system as a midfielder but has blossomed this season playing as a defensive right back.
“…To play all-grown-up like he has… you need a good physical basis,” said Bayer 04 coach Roger Schmidt. “He’s built that up with us over the years. I also need big soccer qualities, and Benni has that. When I say soccer qualities, I mean not only what happens on the ball but what also happens off-the-ball… the awareness, the focus and that he reaches the proper decisions makes me pleased to see.”
A Two-way Player
This year Henrichs has recorded two assists against Schalke and Hamburg while closing down opposing team’s wingers on defense.
“He developed in that offensive midfield position in the youth game, and he has a great two-way ability,” continued Schmidt. “Watch him in the recent games, it’s tough for attackers to go around his left or his right, he rarely loses in one-on-one defensive situations. And that’s the highest level you can reach when you are defending against the likes of Dembele, AC Monaco forwards (and others in the Champions League). Even in our own practices, it’s hard for players to get passed him.”
The Germany call-up will be the first time Henricks will play for the senior national team. He has previously played for the country’s U-19 and U-21 youth sides.
“We want to give young players an opportunity to show what they can do,” German national team coach Jogi Löw was quoted in the Daily Mail on why he chose Henrichs.
Henrich’s play has also caught the attention of larger clubs in Europe. Manchester United and Chelsea have reportedly been closely following his performances at Leverkusen.
“It’s all moving very fast,” concluded Schmidt. “I have to work hard to provide my input, but Benni has made huge strides in the past six months, I would say.”