Christoph Metzelder (l.) will bid one final farewell to the Schalke fans on Saturday
Christoph Metzelder (l.) will bid one final farewell to the Schalke fans on Saturday

Metzelder: "Full of thanks"

Gelsenkirchen - The archetypal centre-back, FC Schalke 04's will forever be remembered as one of the most gifted defenders of his generation.

Unshakeable for club and immovable for country, the former Germany international looks back with a sense of immense gratitude on a turbulent yet memorable career, before spilling the beans on life post-Bundesliga...

Question: After three years at FC Schalke 04, you'll be saying your final goodbyes on Saturday. What thoughts will be going through your head?

Christoph Metzelder: There's a lot of nostalgia. Especially as I'll be stepping out onto the pitch for one last time with the team and my daughter. To stand there looking up at the stands knowing that it's my last game for Schalke, not to mention of my career; I'll have to hold back the tears.

Question: Your career was full of highs and lows. How would you summarise your career after 13 years as a professional?

Metzelder: I'm full of thanks when I look back on what's been a great career. At 19 I'd just finished my school exams. Two months later, I was suddenly playing professionally in the Bundesliga. A year after that, it was the national team. When I look back, I really can't see what could have gone better. Even the injuries are part of my story.

Question: Between 2003 and 2004, you didn't play a single game because of an Achilles injury. Did you ever think you might have to end your career?

Metzelder: I nearly did end my career. I even had a medical insurance note that said I was unfit to play. I was only 23! Yet I fought back and enjoyed many more great years, taking part in the 2006 World Cup, EURO 2008 and moving to Real Madrid before returning to the Bundesliga with Schalke 04.

Question: You moved from Dortmund, via Madrid, to Schalke. How did you get Schalke to accept your past with BVB?

Metzelder: It was tough at first. I faced a lot of resentment as a person. I tried to give everything for the team and the club both on and off the pitch. My commitment to the club didn't change when I was playing less. When called on, I was there! That's why a large proportion of Schalke fans respect me.

Question: The 2006 World Cup changed the entire country. What was that fairy-tale summer like for you?

Metzelder: It remains the highpoint of my career. Those seven weeks, from our first training camp with Jürgen Klinsmann in Sardinia and the reception we received from the thousands of fans along fan mile at Brandenburg Gate, were the best times of my professional career as a footballer. To play at a World Cup in your own country and to have the entire nation behind you is really something quite magnificent and it's something that none of us will forget. I kept a diary that I really ought to get published.

Question: What plans have you got now?

From the start of the coming season, I'll be at Bundesliga and Champions League games as part of Sky's team of experts. My detractors say that I'm a better pundit than a player. We'll see...

Question: Your charitable foundation also has a special place in your heart and is really important to you...

Metzelder: Yes, I've already given special attention to the work of the Christoph Metzelder Foundation, investing lots of time and ideas into the project along with my comrades-in-arms. Our work for disadvantaged children in our country is more important and relevant than ever. To be able to help and support children from school through to work means everything to me. That's my lifelong work, independent of any sporting plans and challenges.