Jonas Hector: 10 things on Germany and Cologne's Mr Reliable at left-back
First choice at left-back for Germany and lauded for his loyalty at Cologne after penning a contract extension with the second-tier club, Jonas Hector’s story – from Auersmacher, a tiny village on the Franco-German border to the Cathedral City to a Germany international – is as well known as it is unconventional.
bundesliga.com has done some digging, however, and unearthed 10 lesser-known facts about Joachim Löw’s Mr Reliable.
1) Buffon? Beaten at the first attempt
Picture the scene: there are around 28 million fans watching in Germany – with countless more around the world; there are almost 40,000 supporters baying in the stands; Antonio Conte is hopping on the touchline, while his counterpart Löw, who has placed all his faith in you, stands serene; Manchester United’s Matteo Darmian has just missed from the spot; Juventus’ Gianluigi Buffon stands in the opposition goal and you know that if you – Cologne’s Hector – score, then Germany are in the semi-finals of UEFA Euro 2016. Oh, and it’s your first-ever professional penalty.
If that sounds like a nightmare scenario, then it’s exactly what Hector had to deal with on a sultry July evening in Bordeaux. In any case, the left-back, at his first major tournament, slotted his penalty home via a deflection off Buffon – the 18th spot-kick of an epic shoot-out – and booked Germany a date with France in the last four, before admitting in a newspaper interview that his only previous penalties had been taken at junior level. “I was pretty nervous I’d mess it up,” he told Express later. “The tension was ridiculous – and the relief and joy afterwards just as big. I suppose you could say it went pretty well.”
2) Following in Buffon’s and Podolski’s footsteps
If that moment will ensure Hector remains part of Buffon’s great football tapestry, then there is another thing that unites the pair: loyalty. With Cologne on the verge of relegation in 2018, the full-back announced that he would not only stay with the club into the second tier, but that he was extending his contract, reportedly rebuffing advances from Bayern Munich, Borussia Dortmund, Liverpool and Barcelona.
“Of course I could have earned more at other clubs, but my aim isn’t to have €400 million in my bank account at the end of my career,” he told WAZ. “Feeling is more important than money, and for me the most important question was always whether or not I’m happy with where I am.”
Following in the footsteps of Cologne great Lukas Podolski in 2004, and Buffon and Alessandro Del Piero in 2006 after Juventus’ relegation due to the Calciopoli scandal, Hector was lauded by then-Bayern Munich coach Jupp Heynckes: “It’s a signal that shows a certain connection to the club. I think it’s fantastic and it shows me that not everything in football is going in the wrong direction.”
Watch: Hector explains his reasoning behind staying at Cologne in the second tier
3) A Cathedral City first
Hector was first called up to the Germany squad in November 2014, making his debut as a substitute in a 4-0 win against Gibraltar in Nuremberg. Remarkably, when he appeared for the final 18 minutes at the Max-Morlock-Stadium, he became the first Cologne player to make a debut for Germany since Podolski had done so in June 2004.
4) An eye on the future
Hector has long been preparing for life outside football: the defender studies BWL (Business Administration) in Cologne (on Vogelsanger Straße, to be precise) and wrote one essay on HR management. “When you’re a professional footballer, switching off can do you good,” he told Express. “I’d like to be prepared for life after football, even if I’ve got no concrete plans as yet.” Hector is putting in the groundwork for a post-football career elsewhere, too: on his year out after finishing school, Hector undertook a coaching C-Licence in order to gain an insight, in his words, “into the tactical side of the game and how a coach ticks”.
5) “I wanted to keep playing with my friends”
Born in Auersmacher, a village of just over 2,500 inhabitants on the Franco-German border (the stadium of the local football club, where Hector began his career, can host 3,500 fans), Hector reportedly turned down offers from a number of clubs – Freiburg, Hoffenheim, Stuttgart and Bochum – and as a teenager was overlooked by then-Bayern reserve-team coach Mehmet Scholl before joining Cologne at the age of 20 in 2010. Indeed, Hector will almost certainly be the only player in Germany’s World Cup squad not to have come through a Bundesliga academy.
“I felt comfortable in Auersmacher and wanted to keep playing with my friends,” Hector told 11Freunde, explaining that he joined the Billy Goats in the summer – and not in January – in order to play out the remainder of the season with his friends. “Perhaps six months settling into Cologne would have been helpful, but I didn’t just suddenly want to leave Auersmacher.” Hector’s family remain involved with the club: his brother still plays, his father coaches the youth team, while his mother washes the kits.
6) No social media, but a furniture fanboy
Hector allows himself few indulgences off the field: unusually for a modern footballer, he has no social media accounts, explaining once to Bild that he is not someone “who wants to spend too much time in the public eye”.
If there are any indulgences he does permit, then it’s when dinner time comes around: “I enjoy eating well … Sometimes I’ll buy myself nice furniture, but otherwise perhaps just the odd gadget … If I’m out in private then I prefer not to be disturbed … If I’m shopping or with friends then they deserve my undivided attention, as it’s an arrangement we’ve made.”
That said, your correspondent can confirm that even when disturbed, Hector is nothing but polite: once, when spotted out and about in central Cologne with team-mate Dominic Maroh, Hector happily posed for several photographs with local fans before returning to his conversation.
7) Cologne’s barbecue king
If eating is one of Hector’s few extravagances, then it simply has to be a good old-fashioned barbecue. The left-back’s skills on the grill when summer rolls around are the stuff of legend in the Billy-Goats’ dressing room. “I cook every now and then,” Hector told Bild. “I’m not so good that I could be up on TV with my own cookery show, but it does always taste particularly good when I’m in charge – perhaps that’s just my opinion, though!”
Watch: Check out Hector’s Zidane-esque goal of the month winner for May!
8) Harry Hektik
Hector’s nickname in the Cologne dressing room is Harry – and not just due to his bespectacled likeness to JK Rowling’s teenage wizard. No, Hector’s nickname is a shortened version of Harry Hektik, coined by former team-mate Maurice Exslager in an ironic sense because of how relaxed Hector is. “It’s meant sarcastically,” Hector has said. “I’m as laidback as I always have been.” In fact, he’s also on record as saying the only thing that gets him angry is losing a game of FIFA on the Playstation.
Watch: We witnessed Hector’s FIFA skills at first hand – they’re impressive, as you can see below!
9) Just don’t call him a linguist
Although Auersmacher is situated on the Franco-German border – the Saar river divides the countries – Hector himself is not a linguist, particularly not when it comes to French. “It was always the first foreign language you learn in school, but you either get it or you don’t, and the latter was the case with me,” he told Cologne’s in-house TV station in 2012. “I wasn’t very talented and so moved it to one side. The river separates us from France, and I’d say we’re purely German. Some of the older people in the village – including my dad – do have connections across the border, though.”
10) A Fabregas admirer
Having started out as a No10 in his youth days and then moved back into a holding midfield role (a position he often reprises for Cologne), it is no surprise that Hector’s childhood hero was a midfielder. “Growing up everyone has a player they like, a player whose style really catches the eye,” he said. “For me that was [Cesc] Fabregas.”