Benedikt Höwedes announces his retirement
23:35 CEST on 13th July 2014 in the Maracana in Brazil was a special, special moment for then-Schalke player Benedikt Höwedes. The defender, who was the only outfielder to play in all seven matches in the tournament, had just become a World Cup winner with Germany after defeating Argentina in 1-0 in the final.
That evening was the highlight of Höwedes’ career. The Haltern-born defender joined Schalke’s academy aged 13 from SG Herten-Langenbochum. He quickly became a key player in his Knappenschmiede side, assuming responsibility both on and off the pitch from an early age.
U19s champion – First professional contract
There was no guarantee that Höwedes would make it to the first team though – all youngsters strive towards this goal in the academy. Bene, as his coaches and teammates called him, knew what he wanted. He was ambitious, did extra sessions and fully committed himself. The finishing touches to his game were made under Norbert Elgert in the U19s, where Höwedes was part of the side that became U19 German Champions in 2006. Mesut Özil and Ralf Fährmann were also in that team and both went on to play for the first team. A dream come true!
The defender’s Bundesliga debut came on 6th October 2007 against Karlsruher SC. He had already got a taste of the Champions League three days prior to this. The talented youngster learnt things from Marcelo Bordon & Co. and quickly became a key cog of the Schalke team.
The academy graduate’s commitment won him a place in the Schalke fans’ hearts. His shirt was popular in the fan shops and the song “Höwedes-Höwedes-Bene-Höwedes” often rang out in the VELTINS-Arena.
U21 European champion and DFB-Pokal winner
Höwedes’ strong performances for the Royal Blues didn’t go unnoticed. He featured heavily in the Germany U21s side at the 2009 European Championships, and he even scored the goal that saw Germany qualify for the tournament with a win in France. Bene’s senior international debut then followed two years later against Uruguay.
Höwedes and Schalke also won the DFB-Pokal in 2011, with the defender scoring in the 5-0 win over MSV Duisburg in the final. Bene and his teammates didn’t just impress domestically in 2010/11 though. He was part of the side that reached the Champions League semi-finals. He scored in the second leg of the quarterfinals against Inter Milan, as the Royal Blues sensationally knocked the holders out.
S04 captain for six seasons
The fan favourite was then made Schalke captain at the start of the next season. He went on to lead Schalke onto the field for six seasons – no other player has ever captained a Bundesliga side for as long.
Höwedes played 240 Bundesliga games for the Knappen (12 goals), as well as 27 DFB-Pokal matches (5 goals) and 66 European encounters (6 goals). No other player has played more often in European competition for Schalke in the club’s history.
Höwedes’ journey at Schalke came to an end in the summer of 2017, with the defender moving on loan to Juventus. He won Serie A and the Italian Cup with the ‘Old Lady’, before signing for Lokomotiv Moscow a year later. His new Russian side then drew Schalke in the Champions League group stages of 2018/19, meaning he would return to Gelsenkirchen. He was given a roaring reception by the home fans before kick-off, before doing a lap of honour after the game while holding back the tears. Schalke will always have a special place in his heart.
Retirement aged 32
Höwedes agreed to terminate his contract at Lokomotiv Moscow by mutual consent on 8th June 2020. Now, the father of a two-year-old boy has announced his decision to retire from professional football.
His professional career is over, but who knows what the future holds? He’s likely to still want to play in his spare time, and maybe still auf Schalke? Olaf Thon, manager of the legends team, will almost definitely contact Höwedes in the coming future!