Quick Reads

Kai Havertz – German Wonderkid Lighting up the Bundesliga

Kai Havertz is following a long line of expressive midfielders in beginning his career at German side, Bayer Leverkusen. Trailing in the footsteps of players such as Michael Ballack, Toni Kroos, Carsten Ramelow and Arturo Vidal, Havertz is losing no time in making his mark in both the Bundesliga and on the international scene.

Not yet 20 years of age, and Havertz is closing in on the century mark of club appearances in all competitions while having also already made his bow at full international level. Injuries and illness permitting, much is expected of this talented young man who is showing no signs of wilting under the pressure placed upon his ever-maturing shoulders.

Born in Aachen, Germany, near the Dutch border in June 1999, Havertz played his junior football at Alemannia Mariadorf. In 2008 he moved to Alemannia Aachen, but by the time he was eleven, he had moved to Bayer Leverkusen.

As he developed as a youth, he was deployed mainly in the centre of midfield, and quickly showed his wide range of capabilities due to being naturally two-footed. Shining in the youth set-up, he was invited to train with the Leverkusen first team squad in the pre-season of 2016-17 and took his chance, playing his way into contention for first-team opportunities at the start of the season.

Havertz made his first-team debut in the Bundesliga in October 2016 as a substitute against Werder Bremen and in doing so became Leverkusen’s youngest ever debutante in league action. A storming first (almost) full season saw Havertz make 28 appearances in all competitions, scoring four goals.

Amongst some of the flags, he set out early in his career were becoming the club’s youngest ever Bundesliga scorer and making the first of his appearances in the Champions League. In a last-sixteen tie against Atletico Madrid, Havertz made his first start in the competition. However, he was unable to appear in the return leg due to having to sit a school examination!

Into the 2017-18 season and Havertz’s progress showed no sign of slowing down. By now he was an established first choice in the starting line up, and in April 2018 became the youngest ever player to amass 50 league appearances in the Bundesliga.

Already Havertz was starting to look ahead. At the end of the 2017-18 season, as his 19th birthday approached, Havertz spoke with disarming honesty in an interview stating that he had his mind firmly set on breaking into the German national side and that in particular, he was aiming to play in the 2020 European Championships.

Coming from someone so young, such comments may have been perceived as confidence bordering on arrogance, but in the case of Havertz, he was simply stating what many others were thinking anyway.

In September 2018, Havertz did indeed make his bow as a senior international making a 2-minute cameo appearance in a friendly match against Peru. Two further appearances followed in quick succession, and Havertz looks well on his way to realising his stated ambition of nailing down a regular starting place in the national side over the next couple of seasons.

As he develops as a player, his style continues to draw comparisons with other players. His early play invited comparisons with Mesut Özil, and Havertz himself said he felt influenced by the Arsenal midfielder as he was starting out.

As he matured and became more established, further comparisons were made with players a bit closer to his Leverkusen roots such as Michael Ballack, Toni Kroos and Arturo Vidal.

More recently, however, Havertz has been awarded the mantle of Alleskönner by the German media. Loosely translated, it means ‘he who can do everything’. Rather than continue to compare Havertz with those who have gone before, it is now becoming a train of thought that he is unique.

Havertz is a player who can be creative on the ball, strong and combative in the tackle, close control and dribbling skills, and possesses the exuberance engine of youth. He has, therefore, the potential to become the complete package and to shine for many years to come.

An additional feature in his game this season has been a new-found maturity. Havertz has developed the ability to read the game and instinctively know when to sit tight in midfield and when to push on. It is traits such as these combined with his obvious skill set that makes the future appear to shine so brightly for Havertz.

Unlike some of his illustrious predecessors in the heart of Leverkusen’s midfield, it is hoped the youngster will resist the overtures of so-called bigger sides when they invariably come calling for him in the next couple of years.

Whether or not Leverkusen will be able to turn down the sort of money sure to be offered for Havertz is perhaps a moot point, though.

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