bundesliga

Bayer Leverkusen twins Lars and Sven Bender come out of retirement

Twins Lars and Sven Bender will feature for ninth-tier TSV Brannenburg after calling time on their top-level careers at the age of 32, having decided not to renew their contracts at Bayer Leverkusen.

The 2020/21 season - their 12th in the Bundesliga - was their final one, bringing to an end the top-level careers of German football's most famous twins.

In a joint statement released by the pair back in December, they cited health reasons behind their decision to call time on their playing days.

“Everyone who knows us knows that we give 100% every day," they said. "That was always the basic requirement for us.

"Unfortunately, it is becoming increasingly difficult for us to do this continuously with all the pain and physical problems from which we are suffering more and more."

They added: "This decision has been anything but easy, not least because of the honest, fair and understanding relationship with the Leverkusen club management in the past and right up to today. Bayer 04 now have time to plan and that was important to us."

But now they are back at the club it all began: TSV Brannenburg in their native Bavaria. Having joined Branneburg as a pair of teenagers, the Bender twins have now taken their journey full circle and it turns out that their return to TSV was long planned.

"We still have three or four players in the squad who played with Lars and Sven in the youth teams," Branneburg coach Hans Nietzold told HNA. "They kept in touch and the two always said: 'If we stop, we'll play again for Brannenburg.' There was an agreement.

"Of course, there was the question: do they really play in the end? I still can't quite believe it, but it's also a huge joy. Both totally fit in, are just as much a part of it as everyone else. They carry the goals over from the neighbouring square, fill up drinking bottles and tidy up the changing room. They want that themselves too."

Sven Bender (l.) won the German league and cup double with Borussia Dortmund in 2011/12. - Friedemann Vogel/Bongarts/Getty Images

Their second debuts for the club ended in a resounding 5-2 victory, with Lars and Sven paired in the centre of midfield as they helped down ASV Flintsbach.

After their initial emergence at Branneburg, the brothers went on to start their pro careers with 1860 Munich, before they both sought pastures new ahead of the 2009/10 campaign; with Lars moving to Leverkusen and Sven heading to Borussia Dortmund.

They were reunited at Leverkusen when Sven joined the club in 2017 and the Bender twins eventually spent four seasons together at the BayArena.

Sven lifted the Meisterschale with Dortmund in both 2010/11 and 2011/12 and is also a two-time DFB Cup winner, while both have represented their country. Lars collected 19 caps and scored four goals for Germany, while Sven played seven times for Die Mannschaft.

Upon their retirement decision Leverkusen managing director Rudi Völler praised both players for their professionalism, something that has been the hallmark of their respective success.

In a poignant moment, Lars (r.) came on in place of Sven (l.) for the final minutes of their last game before scoring a penalty at Borussia Dortmund. - Ralf Ibing/Ralf Ibing /firo Sportphoto/pool

"There are few players in the Bundesliga like Lars and Sven," said Völler. "They represent football class, extreme professionalism and absolute reliability plus determination and commitment."

The pair's last appearance was in the 3-1 defeat at Dortmund on the final day of the season. Sven was given the honour of captaining Leverkusen against his former club - the first time he'd led a team out since wearing the armband for BVB in April 2013 - in his 265th Bundesliga game.

Despite not being expected to play again due to injury, Lars returned as an 89th-minute substitute - of course, replacing his twin - and marked his 256th and last top-flight game by taking the first penalty of his Bundesliga career, converting the consolation goal past Roman Bürki (who didn't attempt to spoil the moment).

The twins had retired with a combined 521 Bundesliga appearances, 123 in Bundesliga 2, 120 across European competitions, and 26 Germany caps. Lars finished as the top scorer by some distance with 35 senior club and country goals compared to 11 from Sven.