Benjamin Henrichs has had a very hectic start to his professional career and has barely had time to catch a breath. This summer he moved to Monaco and has now collected more experience from a different league. Next summer, he has big plans with the U21s.
Football is extremely fast-paced and Benjamin Henrichs knows this. Some time ago, he described his personal development in an interview as “obvious”. In just a few months, he has experienced what some footballers experience throughout their whole career. He made his Bundesliga debut at 18, won the Fritz-Walter-Medal, made his Germany debut at 19 and was a Confederations Cup winner at 20.
At the age of 21, Benjamin Henrichs is an important player in the Germany U21 national team and can look back on an eventful year. At the beginning of the season, he left his homeland and ventured into the unknown. For 14 years, the full-back had been at Bayer 04 Leverkusen but last summer he decided to move to Ligue 1 team AS Monaco.
“Life in Monaco at the start, naturally took some adjusting to,” said the man with three Germany caps. “Savoir vivre” instead of “Et es wie et es”. “In the meantime, I have settled very well and am making progress everyday in learning French. Only the sporting situation is different to what I expected.” Monaco came second in Ligue 1 and took part in the Champions League last year but are now fighting in a relegation battle. “The fact that Benny dared to take this big step really shows what he is about,” said the U21 national team coach Stefan Kuntz. “He switched clubs as a top talent but is having a slightly harder time in France. For his personal development, it is important to be playing regularly at the highest level.”
Moreover, since a few weeks ago Henrichs has been coached by a new coach. World Champion and European Champion Thierry Henry has returned to the club he first played for as head coach. For Henrichs, it is a dream-come-true. “He is an absolute legend and as a player won literally everything. As a child, he was my idol and it is an honour to be coached by him. I am sure that we will stabilise under his leadership.” The ex-striker has already had an effect on Henrichs. In 62 Bundesliga game for Bayer 04 Leverkusen, Henrichs did not score, but he has already scored for Monaco.
Alongside his team’s turbulent start to the season, Henrichs can look back on a successful 2018 with the Germany U21s. He played in eight out of eight games as Germany U21s won seven games and drew one. Henrichs believes that their successful Euros qualification campaign was down to their great team spirit. “We didn’t lose a single game and the whole team has come together. The new players have always integrated in well. The great togetherness helps bring out our individual quality.”
As one of the most experienced players in the team, Henrichs sees himself as a leader within the team. “After playing for the Germany Senior team, I don’t see the U21s as a step backwards. I want to take responsibility and put in performances so that I can be called up again.” What is important, is that he stays in regular contact with the players and the coaching team. “I have experienced coaches that are so open and approachable like Stefan Kuntz and his team. For example, before I switched to Monaco, they frequently visited the injured and myself.” For Kuntz, it is clear: “Benny is an important player of our team due to his experiences and flexibility.”
Henrichs wants to pay back the faith that the coaching team have put in him during next year’s Euros in Italy and San Marino. “At the Confederations Cup, I experienced how much success can bring a team together. I want it to be repeated at the U21 Euros,” he said. “For the majority of us, it will be the last youth tournament that we partake in and therefore we want to the best possible conclusion. We will start preparing for it in the new year.”
Germany U21s will be taking part in the U21 Euros in Italy and San Marino (16th – 30th June 2019) and are in Group B alongside Denmark, Serbia and Austria. The draw took place in Bologna with Andrea Pirlo picking out the names. The opening game will see Stefan Kuntz’s team play Denmark on the 17th June and three days later they will play against Serbia. The last game will be against Austria (23/06/19). Group A consists of Italy, Spain, Poland and Belgium whilst Group C holds England, France, Romania and Croatia. The three group winners and best runner-up will reach the semi-finals and will all be awarded with a place in the 2020 Olympics. The final will be held in Udine on June 30th. The other stadiums are in Trieste, Bologna, Reggio Emilia and Cesena and Serravalle in San Marino.