Former Stuttgart and Germany full back Andreas Hinkel has announced his retirement from football at the premature age of 30. He posted his decision on his blog on Monday the 10th of September and cited that his reasons were that he didn’t want to prolong his career in other countries and preferred to spend time with his family, drawing pride in his 12-year long career having won domestic and continental trophies.
Early years in Stuttgart and die Jungen Wilden
Hinkel was born in Backnang, a town northeast of Stuttgart in 1982. He joined VfB Stuttgart at the age of 10 after having started his career with TSV Leutenbach. He moved up to the Stuttgart squad in the 2000/2001 season as a full-back who could play on each flank, although used mostly on the right, his preferred side. In the 2003/2004 season he was part of the Jungen Wilden, the young Stuttgart side that were Bundesliga runners-up in 2002/2003, a team which contained players such as Timo Hildebrand, Phillip Lahm (on loan from Bayern München), Aliaksandr Hleb and Kevin Kuranyi, managed by Felix Magath. Hinkel was, along with Lahm, a huge attacking threat as a wing-back. The team’s biggest achievement was probably beating Manchester United 2-1 at the Gottlieb-Daimler Stadion in the Champions League group stage, with a quickfire double by Imre Szabics and Kevin Kuranyi, including even a penalty miss by Fernando Meira.
In 2002, Hinkel made his debut for the U21 side, for which he made 8 appearances. A year later, Hinkel was handed his full debut for die Mannschaft by Rudi Völler in April 2003 in a 1-0 victory against Serbia and Montenegro at the Weserstadion in Bremen. Hinkel was called up for the Euro 2004 squad although he was unused, and was not called up by Jürgen Klinsmann for the 2006 World Cup or by Joachim Löw for the 2008 European Championships. However, he did play again for the team a further three times after Euro 2008 but was not named in the squad for the 2010 World Cup. Hinkel made a total of 23 international appearances without scoring any goals.
In the summer of 2006, Andreas Hinkel moved to Sevilla FC in Spain for 4m€ after over 200 appearances for VfB Stuttgart in all competitions. It was a mixed two season for Hinkel in Sevilla. The Spanish side went on to play its most successful season in history, winning the Spanish Cup, the UEFA Cup, the UEFA Super Cup and finishing third in the league, adding to that the Spanish Super Cup against Barcelona the following year. However, Hinkel had a certain Dani Alves in front of him and dislodging him proved to be an almost impossible task and, combined with a series of injuries, Hinkel only managed a total of 19 appearances for the nervioneses in two years.
The January transfer window of 2008 saw an inevitable move from the Sánchez Pizjuán and he landed at Celtic Park for 2m€. He proved a hit with the Celtic fans thanks to his strength going forward and his defensive solidity. At Celtic he provided regular assists and contributed greatly thanks to his excellent performances to a Scottish Premier League win in his first half season there. A Scottish League cup victory followed the season after but a serious cruciate ligament injury at the beginning of the 2010/2011 season kept him out for the whole season and he was released at the end of it.
Return to the Bundesliga and retirement
In October 2011, he signed for SC Freiburg on a free transfer but only managed seven appearances for them and wasn’t offered a new contract at the end of the season.
Hinkel’s decision to retire may have come as a surprise because of his age but looking at his serious injuries and pride in his career in the elite, it’s an understandable move. Hinkel claims he’s had offers from outside Germany but has decided to hang up his boots and pursue a career in sport, as a coach or as an agent.