After an impressive start to the 2016 Bundesliga campaign, 19-year-old Benjamin Henrichs has received his first call-up to the senior Germany team, despite only debuting for the U-21 national team a month ago!
Breaking into the team as a right back, Henrichs has made 14 starts for Bayer Leverkusen this season across all competitions, playing the full 90 minutes in each of them. Nationalmannschaft trainer Joachim Löw has noticed, and now Henrichs is part of the Germany squad for the World Cup qualifier against San Marino and the friendly against Italy during the current international break.
His manager at club level, Roger Schmidt, spoke about the emergence of the youngster who came up through the Leverkusen academy.
“…To play all-grown-up like he has… you need a good physical basis. 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 really makes me pleased to see. It’s all moving very fast and I have to work hard to provide my input but Benni has made huge strides in the past six months, I would say,” Schmidt said.
This is high praise for a youngster, and plenty of defenders have trouble breaking into their club sides, much less get a chance to play with the national team at such a young age. Henrichs has two assists in Bundesliga play this season.
“He developed in that offensive midfield position in the youth game and he has a great two-way ability. 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 [Borussia Dortmund’s Ousmane] Dembélé, AC Monaco forwards (and others in the Champions League). Even in our own practices, it’s hard for players to get past him,” Bayer 04 Leverkusen boss Roger Schmidt said.
Henrichs has been at Leverkusen since 2004. The culture of the academy, coupled with the willingness and trust of his manager to play young talents has provided the platform for him, and many others to shine.
By Jack Grimse