Benjamin Henrichs has told bundesliga.com that he didn't take much convincing to swap Ligue 1 and Monaco for the German top flight and RB Leipzig.
Henrichs, 23, is back for a second stint in his native Germany after joining Julian Nagelsmann's Leipzig on a season-long loan. The three-time Germany international full-back, who is a product of Bayer Leverkusen's youth academy, is delighted to have made the move...
bundesliga.com: After two years at AS Monaco in France, you are now at Champions League semi-finalists RB Leipzig. What are the main differences between the Bundesliga and Ligue 1?
Benjamin Henrichs: "The main difference in the Bundesliga is that they have more tactics and discipline; the formations. It is stricter. In France, it can be wild sometimes. We have a lot of players that are strong physically. You might not know them before the game but after the game, you will know them for sure."
bundesliga.com: What made you want to come back to Germany and why did you pick RB Leipzig?
Henrichs: "We were in talks for a long time - talks that convinced me already that I have everything. I think this is the best place for me to develop, to be here and to prove as well that I didn't lose my qualities. That's the main reason I came back to the Bundesliga. I know the league. It's not a league or country where I need to learn the language first or to adapt. I know the Bundesliga very well. I think that Leipzig is a great next step for me."
bundesliga.com: RB Leipzig proved last season that they are part of Europe’s elite. What are your goals for this season?
Henrichs: "For sure, I think you can see what we achieved last season. We were among the four best teams in Europe in the Champions League. Of course, it wasn't easy. It was a hard to get there. Especially in the Bundesliga, I think we can deliver again. We can show that we have a lot of quality. I hope in the Bundesliga and the Champions League we can go as far as possible. The same goes for the DFB Cup."
bundesliga.com: Because of the Corona situation, RB Leipzig will start the season without any friendlies or training camp. How will you prepare to ensure you start the season off well?
Henrichs: "For sure, it's a different pre-season. It was a short break for the team. For me, it was a long break. For example, today we had a test match against our youth team. You try to get some things in there. Try to bring some tactics in there that you want to use during the season. I think for that, it was a really good test today. Also, it is difficult to find another team right now to play against. Each team has the same problem. As I said, this pre-season is different but it's the same for every team."
bundesliga.com: Will you make it in the starting eleven?
Henrichs: "I hope so!"
bundesliga.com: How would you describe the last season for RB Leipzig?
Henrichs: "As I said, I think it was a very good season in the Bundesliga. We qualified for the Champions League again. The Champions League was just awesome. We reached the semi-finals. The only thing we might improve is in the cup. The cup, as you say, has its own rules. It depends on how you play the single matches and about form on the day."
bundesliga.com: On Bundesliga Matchday 2, Leipzig face your old club Bayer 04 Leverkusen. What significance does the game have for you and how do you feel when you think about the game?
Henrichs: "To be honest, I don't know how it will be because I have never played against Leverkusen. I have a lot of friends in the team. They have a new coach, but it is almost the same group. There are a lot of players I know. I will be very happy to see all those familiar faces and see my friends over there and be in the stadium where I grew up."
bundesliga.com: How will you react if you end up scoring against Leverkusen?
Henrichs: "I don't know if I would celebrate because I was there for 15 years. I grew up there from a young, seven-year-old guy to becoming a professional. I have a lot to say because I owe them a lot. I'm thankful for the opportunity they gave me. We'll have to see whether I celebrate."
bundesliga.com: Was coach Julian Nagelsmann a decisive factor in your decision to join Leipzig? What makes him so special and how do you rate him?
Henrichs: "He's a very good coach. He played a very big role in my decision. From the first conversations we had, I was convinced of coming here because this would be the best next step I could take. You could see that in every club he has worked at, he has developed the players; developed the teams. They made a huge step. I want to be part of that development."
bundesliga.com: What makes the Bundesliga so special? How would you rate the football played in Germany? Has the style changed since you moved from Leverkusen to Monaco?
Henrichs: "I don't know because I didn't play - I just watched. I can only talk about Ligue 1 and the Bundesliga. The big difference is that we have a lot of supporters in Germany. Of course, now we have the coronavirus but before that, it was a main difference. You could feel that in Germany you were very lucky to have big supporters like that; huge groups like that. In every stadium. You can be happy for that."
bundesliga.com: At Leipzig, you will probably play in front of spectators again. How comfortable would you feel without spectators? Would it possibly even help players to play without fans?
Henrichs: "I don't know. I didn't play a single match without fans because, as I said, my last match was in February in front of fans. I spoke to the boys a lot. One thing is that you can get advice from the coach; you can talk on the pitch and you can hear each other. With the supporters, that isn’t really possible. For me, it's clear that the supporters belong at the matches. They will push you, even in away games. It gives you this extra motivation. We're happy we can play now, but we need the supporters."
bundesliga.com: In your opinion, how important is the Bundesliga in European football?
Henrichs: "Very. We saw Bayern Munich win the Champions League in a way which was not normal. They beat the best team in Spain 8-2. It is not only Bayern but Dortmund, Leipzig. We were there in the semi-finals as well. For example, they always say Ligue 1 is not that strong of a league but this year in the semi-finals, we had two teams from France and two teams from Germany. You can see that it's not only England or Spain. There's competition. They're close to each other, the leagues."
bundesliga.com: What was the best Bundesliga moment you have ever experienced?
Henrichs: "I think it was my match against Dortmund. We faced them at the BayArena. The first half, I played right-back. The second half, I played left-back. It was a very good match of mine. I think it was my best match. After that, I got a call from Jogi Löw and got called up to the national team."
bundesliga.com: What part has Bayer Leverkusen played in your career so far?
Henrichs: "A huge part. Aged seven, just a small boy, I went there. I got the opportunity to become a professional over there. They helped me a lot. Of course, I can say that I'm forever grateful and thankful because I got the opportunity to become professional and right now, I'm living my dream and they played a huge part in that."
bundesliga.com: Which Bayer players are you still in contact with today? Who are your best buddies?
Henrichs: "I talk to almost all of the guys: Leon [Bailey], Jona [Tah], Karim [Bellarabi]. We're still close. We talk a lot. That's why it will be a weird game when I face them because they are my friends."
bundesliga.com: You grew up in North Rhine-Westphalia, your father is German and your mother comes from Ghana. How was your childhood?
Henrichs: "I got raised both ways. It's not like I'm 100 percent German because of my mum. We were raised here and I grew up here. I'm very happy and grateful to have both sides inside me. I've also been to Ghana several times. The last time was three years ago. I'm happy to be [multicultural]."
bundesliga.com: How did you turn to football and how did your parents support you during your time as a youth player?
Henrichs: "I don’t even remember that well because it was very early. My parents think it was at the age of four. My first training session at a small club. I started crying because I didn’t want to be there. Somehow, that changed. At the age of seven I got invited for a trial at Leverkusen. From that point, I played for Leverkusen. My sister, my family, my friends: they have supported me all the time. They even moved from Cologne to Leverkusen to go to the school there and make it easier for me. I'm even more glad that I made it to where I am now."
bundesliga.com: Just like your mother, you also have Ghanaian citizenship. Where exactly does your mother come from in Ghana?
Henrichs: "She's from Accra. The main city. The capital."
bundesliga.com: Can you tell us something about where your mother comes from in Ghana?
Henrichs: "I was there three years ago. I was a bit surprised because the last time I was there, 10 years ago, I saw that Ghana made huge developments as well. Now you can see nice hotels, things you didn’t see before. Shopping malls where you can buy expensive brands. Things you didn’t expect to hear before when you hear about Ghana or any African country. You don’t expect that so I'm happy to see that."
bundesliga.com: You have relatives in Ghana and have visited them there before. How often have you been there and how was that experience for you? Did you feel "at home"?
Henrichs: "Of course I feel at home. Each time I go there I feel at home because we stayed in contact even when I moved here. A lot of my family texted me because my family is very big in Ghana. What you feel over there is the happiness and they are always grateful and thankful. Even in circumstances where they do not feel that good, you can feel that they still support you. Even when they have their own problems, they still support you. You can feel that that is kind of different to here in Germany."
bundesliga.com: What do you particularly like about the country and its culture?
Henrichs: "One of the best experiences I have had was when I went to Ghana with my family. One day, we passed a school and I saw they were playing with a ball which was not really a real ball. I had a ball from Germany with me that I brought to Ghana to play with. We decided to stop and give them the ball as a present so they could play with a normal ball. They don’t have this material stuff like we have here in Europe, but you can see how happy they are with the smallest things. It's a great vibe. You can tell anyone out there to visit Africa sometime to feel the happiness."
bundesliga.com: Would you describe yourself as a Ghanaian? Do you notice certain Ghanaian characteristics in yourself?
Henrichs: "I always say I'm half-half. Half German and half Ghanaian because of my parents for sure but I also feel like, for example, the way I am with my mum. I am always dancing, singing, shouting. For sure, the Ghanaian side in me. With my dad, it's also like that but not with the same intensity. I have a lot of Ghanaian things, but also a lot of German things."
bundesliga.com: How would you describe yourself as a player? What are your strengths and what could you improve on?
Henrichs: "A good thing for me as a player is that I can play in different positions. Left-back, right-back, midfield. I don’t really care where I play. I am happy as long as I am playing. One thing that I really want to develop is scoring more goals and making more assists. I'm not happy with my numbers. That's for sure something I want to develop."
bundesliga.com: Let's come back to RB Leipzig. You are on loan for one-year with a purchase option. What are your personal plans in the coming years as a footballer?
Henrichs: "Before I moved to Monaco, I made some plans for myself. Where I want to be in two or three years. In football, you get your ups and downs so my personal plans are not what happens next year but for me, I want to see that this season, I will do my best, I want to give my best for the team. I want to play as much as possible and improve my stats. What will happen in two or three years, I don’t want to talk about that because I feel like the ups and downs come very fast in football."
bundesliga.com: What do you want to achieve with the club this season? What is the target?
Henrichs: "In the Bundesliga we got the third place. If it is possible, we want to get even higher this year. In the Champions League, you could see what we achieved last season. It will be even more difficult because you have the home and away games again in the Champions League. I think everything is possible especially starting with the cup games. I think they have six or seven games and you can win the cup. I think we have a great chance in each competition. We just need to prove ourselves."
bundesliga.com: blacklivesmatter: How did people react to your commitment and how are you dealing with it?
Henrichs: "For me, it is not like I'm looking for attention. I don’t want to be in the spotlight where everyone is talking about me. It is about Black Lives Matter. It is about people talking about that and not about me and how I'm dealing with that because I am a person of interest. It is just important to give out this message that Black Lives Matter. Not that they matter more, but simply that they matter. That is what we want."