In an era where ‘club legends’ has become such a rarity due to the copious amounts of money being thrown around, hometown hero Benedikt Höwedes has dedicated his footballing career to Die Königsblauen.
Entering his seventh season as the Schalke captain, Höwedes is up to 10th in club history in career Bundesliga appearances as he continues make his mark in the record book. Born in the neighboring town of Haltern, the 29-year-old centre-back has been with the club for 16 years. Höwedes joined the Schalke youth academy in 2001 and made his first career first team appearance in the 2007/08 season. Now, 10 years and 239 Bundesliga matches later, he remains in Gelsenkirchen. Only Gerald Asamoah has been with Schalke for as long as Höwedes has since 1995.
Höwedes has racked up 23 goals in all competitions in 349 career appearances, while he is 20 Bundesliga matches away from moving to eighth-place in club history in league appearances. His 23 goals are tied for third-most in Schalke history by defenders, and he’s pitched in 13 career assists as well. He has also tallied 65 starts in all European competition, netting six goals in Europa League and Champions League play in his career.
While injuries have derailed much of his recent seasons, it was satisfying for Schalke supporters to see Höwedes at full strength for the majority of the 2016/17 season, as he appeared in 31 of 34 Bundesliga matches.
His contributions have run deep, from playing a huge role in Schalke’s historic run to the 2010/11 Champions League semi-final to providing stability and continuity which has helped the club remain a power in German football for much of the past decade.
It was particularly difficult to watch his expressions throughout this past season as Schalke struggled to finish mid-table for just the second time in 16 seasons. Much of the squad failed to play with the passion and fire that the captain always has. Höwedes is almost like a reflection of the fans when he’s on the pitch.
Höwedes gives 100 percent and is always ready mentally because he knows what Schalke are all about as he’s stated in interviews. Gelsenkirchen obviously isn’t a world-class city or major population center – it’s a smaller city with a mostly working-class fanbase who love their football more than anything.
He will continue to be a fan favorite for as long as he decides to stay at the club because of his dedication and will to make Schalke fans proud of the club they support. For Höwedes, success is about more than just himself, but for the club, supporters and city.