Germany international Benedikt Höwedes has ended his long association with Schalke by signing for Juventus.
The 2014 FIFA World Cup winner, 29, had been with the Royal Blues since the age of 13 but has now decided to take up an offer to join the Serie A side on a season-long loan deal, although the Italian champions do possess an option to buy Höwedes at the end of the loan arrangement.
"I'm going as a player, but staying a fan," Höwedes wrote on his Twitter page. "Thanks, Schalke, for 16 great years! Schalke has been part of my life for 16 years and has been more than one stop along a career path. My main hope is that Schalke will be back in Europe next season and I'll be there as a fan, crossing my fingers in the stands."
"It wasn't an easy decision, but because of Benedikt's great service to Schalke down the years, we didn't want to stand in the way of his decision to move to Juventus," said Schalke sporting director Christian Heidel. "We wish him all the best."
Watch: Thank you, Benedikt Höwedes!
The 29-year-old’s talent was evident from an early age as he helped Schalke win the German Under-19 championship and was awarded the Fritz Walter Medal as the best player in the country at that age level in 2007.
He soon broke into the first team at the VELTINS Arena and established himself as an adaptable defensive player who could play at centre back, full-back or in central midfield.
Höwedes was part of a star-studded Germany side that won the European Under-21 Championship in 2009 and scored in the 2011 DFB Cup final to win his first silverware with Schalke.
"I'm leaving as a player, but staying a fan! Thanks, Schalke, for 16 years!"
He enjoyed some great nights in Europe with the Royal Blues too – reaching the semi-finals of the UEFA Champions League in 2011 – and was appointed captain ahead of the 2011/2012 season.
A native of Haltern near Schalke’s home in Gelsenkirchen, the best moment of Höwedes’ career came when he helped Germany beat Argentina in the 2014 World Cup final. True to form, he had served the greater good in that tournament by filling in at left-back.
The Royal Blues stalwart had his injury problems after that but he played 46 games in all competitions last season.
He had a groin operation before the summer break and after new Schalke boss Domenico Tedesco appointed Ralf Fährmann as captain, Höwedes has now opted for a new challenge.
In ten seasons with the Royal Blues’ first team, he scored 23 goals in 335 appearances in all competitions.