A young, versatile defender who’s a full Germany international and has UEFA Champions League experience? RB Leipzig have struck the jackpot in signing Benjamin Henrichs, but what else is there to know about the Bayer Leverkusen academy graduate?
bundesliga.com fills in the blanks…
Club: RB Leipzig
Position: Full-back, defensive midfield
Country: Germany (3 senior caps)
Born to a German father and Ghanaian mother, Henrichs grew up in Cologne and joined the youth academy of nearby Leverkusen at the age of seven. He swiftly progressed through the age categories before signing his first professional contract with the Werkself at the age of 18 in 2015, making his first team debut in October that same year. Although Henrichs was a regular in Bundesliga matchday squads that season he made just six top-flight outings, before truly making his breakthrough in 2016/17 with 27 league starts, as well as seven in the Champions League.
His rapid rise did not go unnoticed by Germany head coach Joachim Löw, who handed him his maiden cap for Die Mannschaft on 11 November 2016 in a friendly against San Marino – a match which preceded an audience with Pope Francis in the Vatican City. Henrichs was also included in Germany’s triumphant 2017 Confederations Cup squad, providing two assists in two appearances at the tournament in Russia.
In total Henrichs made 76 competitive outings for Leverkusen before joining AS Monaco in summer 2018. A series of injuries limited his progress on the French riviera, but he still managed one goal in 44 games before returning to the Bundesliga with Leipzig in July 2020.
Plays a bit like: Joshua Kimmich
With his ability to play at both full-back and in defensive midfield, the similarities with Bayern Munich star Joshua Kimmich make for an obvious comparison. Yet the players share more than just positional versatility: both are quick, aggressive in the tackle, able to spray diagonal passes into the feet of a teammate on the other side of the pitch, or curl pinpoint crosses into the box on regular forays forward.
Did you know?
In August 2016 Henrichs was awarded the highest accolade a young player can be given in Germany, the U19 gold Fritz Walter Medal. The prize, reserved for the country’s brightest talents at U19, U18 and U17 levels, puts him in some esteemed company, with previous winners including Marc-Andre ter Stegen, Matthias Ginter and Kevin-Prince Boateng.
What they’re saying
“He’s got exceptional defensive qualities. It’s unbelievably difficult to get past him. He’s absolutely top-class. We all know how hard it is to defend against players like Heung-Min Son and Ousmane Dembele… but it’s just very hard to get the better of Benny.” – former Leverkusen head coach Roger Schmidt
“He’s developed unbelievably well.” – Leverkusen sporting director Rudi Völler in 2016
“I was trained as a midfielder […] and I really enjoy playing as a No.6. Obviously I can play out wide too, but in the middle I’m on the ball more and involved more. My teammates look to find me more frequently and it’s something that suits me.” – Henrichs on where he prefers to play
"Even though he's only 23, he already has a lot of experience, both in Germany and internationally. His versatility in defence will give us more options when it comes to our tactical approach." - Leipzig sporting director Markus Krösche