Player Profile: Stéphane Henchoz
Date of Birth: 07/09/1974
Height: 6 ft 2 in
Position: Centre back
National Team: Switzerland
International Caps: 72
Born in Billens in his native Switzerland in 1974, Stéphane Henchoz would later become a household name in England following 11 successful years in the Premier League.
It all started at Neuchâtel Xamax FCS in 1992 where Henchoz impressed as a teenager. Over the course of three years he made 91 appearances for the Swiss side before attracting attention from clubs across Europe.
In 1995 he left his home country and headed to Germany where he signed for former European champions Hamburger SV. Here he would continue his excellent form and become a transfer target for several English clubs.
In June 1997 Henchoz opted to sign for Blackburn Rovers after turning down an offer from English giants Manchester United. Blackburn, then managed by Roy Hodgson, signed the Swiss defender for £3million. In his debut season in the Premier League, Henchoz was a prominent figure in the Rovers starting eleven. He made 36 league appearances as Blackburn finished 6th and in the process qualified for the UEFA Cup.
Unfortunately the following season would be disastrous for the former Premier League winners. Despite Henchoz continuing to impress, Blackburn’s form plummeted and they were eventually relegated to the Championship. But the Swiss defender would remain a Premier League player.
Rovers agreed to sell Henchoz to Liverpool for £3.5million as they looked to cut the wage bill. He signed a five year contract on Merseyside and would go on to become an Anfield legend.
A fan favourite from the off, Henchoz formed a solid partnership at the back with Sami Hyypiä. The pair would be vital to Liverpool’s historic cup treble in 2001. Prior to that though Henchoz made 61 league appearances in his first two seasons at Anfield.
Henchoz’s third season at Liverpool would be his most successful and memorable as a player, but it wasn’t without drama. In the League Cup Final Henchoz gave away a penalty in the dying minutes which Birmingham’s Darren Purse dispatched to force extra time. Neither side could find a breakthrough, which meant the final would be decided on penalties. But Blues’ Andrew Johnson missed the decisive spot kick handing Liverpool the 2000/01 League Cup.
Liverpool and Henchoz didn’t have too long to wait before they got their hands on yet another trophy. On the 12th May Liverpool faced Arsenal in the FA Cup final at the Millennium Stadium. During the early stages of the game Henchoz inadvertently blocked a Thierry Henry strike with his arm, but somehow got away with it. Liverpool went on to win the game 2-1 thanks to a Michael Owen brace.
Two trophies down one to go, and four days later Liverpool completed a cup treble in dramatic fashion. Gérard Houllier’s side twice threw away a two goal lead to Alaves, before needing extra time and golden goal to secure the UEFA Cup.
His outstanding form that season led to him winning the Credit Suisse Player of the Year, an achievement he’d win again 12 months later as Liverpool claimed another League Cup.
Henchoz’s next two seasons at Anfield were blighted by injuries and following the arrival of Igor Bišćan, who Houllier preferred at centre back, game time was limited. The final nail in the coffin came in late 2004 when Rafa Benitez was appointed the new Reds manager. The Spaniard decided to try local lad Jamie Carragher at centre half, and in truth he never looked back. Henchoz’s time at Anfield came to an end after five unbelievable years with the club.
In January 2005 Henchoz moved north and signed a six month contract with Celtic. He’d make just eight appearances for the Hoops before moving back to England and the Premier League.
Aged 31 the Swiss international signed a one year contract at newly promoted Wigan. His experience and class would help the Latics to a tenth place finish and runners-up in the League Cup.
Henchoz left Wigan when his contract expired in the summer of 2006 and a few weeks later he returned to Ewood Park after signing a contract until the summer of 2007.
Mark Hughes used Henchoz sparingly, mainly acting as cover for Ryan Nelsen and Chris Samba. During the 2006/07 season Henchoz made 12 league appearances but was released that summer. Almost a year later, having not played football in over 12 months, Henchoz announced his retirement from professional football.
He ended his career with 389 professional appearances, with 243 of those coming in English football, and he’ll forever be known for his heroics during Liverpool’s famous treble winning season. He is and always will be an Anfield legend.
Henchoz made his international debut in 1993 aged just 19. Over the course of the next 13 years he’d go on to claim a further 71 caps, failing to score a single goal.
He represented his country at Euro 96 and 2004, but was ruled out of the 2006 World Cup due to health problems, which resulted in him retiring from international football later that year.
Where is Stéphane Henchoz now?
After retiring from professional football in 2008 Henchoz was appointed Blackburn Rovers Under 18s manager, and stayed in the position until the summer of 2009. He was later appointed manager of Swiss club FC Bulle, where he managed just one season.
After a few years away from the game Henchoz returned to Neuchâtel Xamax as Michel Decastel’s number two. In February 2019 the club sacked Decastel following a run of poor results and promoted Henchoz to head coach for the remainder of the season. Things didn’t quite work out though and at the end of the season Henchoz stepped down from his position.
In May 2019 Henchoz was appointed manager of Swiss side FC Sion, but lasted just six months. He resigned from his position in November 2019 and since then has taken a few months away from the game.