Doha - 2014 could hardly have been a more eventful year for Benedikt Höwedes, with the defender playing a key role in Germany’s FIFA World Cup triumph in Brazil and experiencing a topsy-turvy 12 months with FC Schalke 04.
The new year promises to be no less eventful for the Royal Blues skipper, who is likely to form a new partnership at the heart of the Gelsenkirchen club’s defence with loan signing Matija Nastasic.
Speaking to bundesliga.com at their winter training camp in Doha, the 26-year-old told us what we can expect from Schalke’s new defensive tandem, discussed die Knappen’s lengthy injury list and shared his thoughts on head coach Roberto Di Matteo.
bundesliga.com: Benedikt Höwedes, what do you make of Schalke’s new signing Matija Nastasic?
Benedikt Höwedes: I haven’t met him personally, but I’ve seen him play for Manchester City. He’s strong in the tackle, which can help us. He seems a good guy with a good mentality that will fit into our team. I’m sure he’ll help us a lot, we’re always happy when a good player joins us. Of course we could end up playing together at the heart of our defence. We’re quite flexible tactically now, we can play with either three or four men at the back.
bundesliga.com: Roberto Di Matteo has been in charge for over 100 days now...
Höwedes: It’s been good working with him. He’s changed a few things and helped the team become more composed. He’s also altered our tactics, which was the right decision and has helped us become successful again. We’ve managed to stay within touching distance of the top four and laid the foundation for a decent Rückrunde. Di Matteo’s a hard worker, always well-prepared and his training sessions are fun. I have a good relationship with him, being the captain, and we talk a lot. I think he’s a quiet guy, but also quite dominant as a character. But he’s someone you can always talk to when there’s a problem.
bundesliga.com: Were you able to make the most of your time off during the festive period?
Höwedes: I was certainly tired towards the end of the first half of the season and had a few problems, but I made sure I switched off during the break to take in everything that’s happened over the past year. Here in Doha I’ve been making sure I get my stamina back to be well-prepared for the second half of the campaign.
bundesliga.com Schalke’s injury problems show no sign of abating...
Höwedes: Many players have had to make their way back to Germany. Some of them are regular starters - it would be important to have those players here in Doha. It seems like there are more amateurs and youth players than members of the first squad here at the moment. It makes working on new tactics difficult, but complaining about it isn’t going to solve the problem. We have to try and prepare well so we can start the year on the right foot, which I’m sure we will.
Benedikt Höwedes was speaking to Luca Blass