Manuel Veth –
Bayern München want to make him the centre-piece of their rebuild. Liverpool would love to him in their midst, as do other top clubs from England and Spain. Kai Havertz is one of the most fascinating prospects in the German Bundesliga at the moment.
Recently ranked second among attacking midfielders by the German magazine kicker the bi-annual Rangliste des deutschen Fußballs behind Dortmund’s Marco Reus, Kai Havertz is looking back to a fantastic Hinrunde. “The two unify the hope of a better German football future,” kicker journalist Patrick Kleinmann wrote in his evaluation text to the best-attacking midfielders in the Bundesliga. “Havertz has the potential for a prestigious career,” former Germany national team player Olaf Thon added.
But where Reus seems to be at the pinnacle of his career there is a certain understanding that Kai Havertz – despite the nine goals and six assists in 23 games for Leverkusen this season – has not even come close to his full potential yet. After all, the 19-year-old native of Aachen is only playing his third full season with Bayer Leverkusen.
Kai Havertz joined Bayer Leverkusen from Alemania Aachen in 2014. Playing in the U-17, he then made the jump to the first team in the summer of 2016. Already back in 2016/17 Kai Havertz started to turn heads, scoring four goals and six assists as a 17-year-old in the Bundesliga. Enough to make him a candidate for the German national team that travelled to Russia to compete at the 2017 FIFA Confederations Cup or the U-21 team that went to the Czech Republic to compete in the U-21 European Championships.
Kai Havertz – The hope of a nation?
Ultimately, Havertz was not included in either team. Not that it mattered much, both the hastily put together the German national team and the U-21 side would end up winning their respective tournaments. The victories in 2017, in fact, may have taken the edge of Havertz’s development throughout the 2017/18 season.
With Germany considered in a strong position to play the World Cup Havertz, after all, was an interesting prospect for the future – nothing more. That is a perspective that changed after a disastrous 2018 FIFA World Cup and a UEFA Nations League performance that left much to be desired by die Nationalmannschaft.
All of a sudden Kai Havertz has become what Germans call ein Hoffnungsträger (a ray of hope) for a better future. In Havertz, many pundits believe, German football have a player that they did not have since Michael Ballack retired. A dominant midfielder, who can not just control the middle third but also press forward and decide matches by scoring key goals.
It is an attribute that Kai Havertz has shown on several occasions this season. Against Ludogorets Razgrad in the Europa League, for example, Kai Havertz turned the match around after Bayer had gone down by two goals in the first 31 minutes. Making it 2-1 in the 38′ minute, he was then involved in Isaac Thelin’s equaliser in the 63′ minute before scoring the winner in the 69′ minute.
Not the only time this season that Kai Havertz turned around a match all by himself. He repeated the trick against AEK Larnaca in the Europa League scoring the equaliser in the 44′ minute after the Cypriots went up 1-0 in the 25′ minute. The 19-year-old then set up Lucas Alario for Bayer’s second, which led the way to Bayer ultimately winning that game 4-2.
In the Bundesliga, he had a similar impact in the game against Hertha on matchday 17. Scoring twice Kai Havertz was the man of the match. It was a match that some believed may have saved his head coaches job. Bayer, in fact, have struggled all season and it is only thanks to the 13 points collected in the last six games of the Hinrunde that die Werkself remain in contention for a European qualification spot.
Not that it helped Heiko Herrlich in the end. The Bayer head coach was fired regardless after too many games in which his side lacked structure and a clear tactical approach. An argument could be made that Bayer won games towards the end of the season despite Herrlich being in charge not because of him.
Kai Havertz by the numbers
Indeed Bayer were heavily dependent on impact performances by the likes of Kai Havertz in the second half of the Hinrunde. The attacking midfielder managed to complete 62% of his on average 76.36 actions per game. Among the key indicators that stick out are pass completion 87.5% of his on average 41.5 passes, 81.8% of his on average 2.64 long passes and completing 75% of his on average 4.4 dribbles. Havertz is also third in the like with four secondary assists behind Jadon Sancho (seven) and Reus (five).
Overall, the scouting platform Wyscout seems to be in concurrence with the assessment given by kicker ranking Kai Havertz as the second best-attacking midfielder behind Reus in the Bundesliga. In particular, his ability to win key dribblings, pass accuracy and 4.92 recoveries per 90 minutes win the day ahead of similar players like Ondrej Duda, Ante Rebić and Ihlas Bebou – numbers that highlight that Kai Havertz at the age of 19 is already a vital impact player at Bayer.
Leverkusen, however, replaced Herrlich with former Borussia Dortmund head coach Peter Bosz. It has been an appointment that has been criticised by some. Bosz, after all, struggled at Borussia Dortmund and was ultimately fired after he played spectacular attacking football but at the same time failed to find defensive stability. Once Tottenham decoded him in the Champions League Dortmund’s backline became an invitation to score bucket loads of goals.
Bayer Leverkusen, however, are convinced that Bosz is the right man to achieve success. “Bosz represents the sort of football that will benefit many of our players. Not just because they are young, fast and good with the ball but also because they already tend to play an attacking style of football,” sporting director Rudi Völler said to the media earlier this week.
Kai Havertz is without a doubt one of those players. In fact, if Peter Bosz wants to have any success at Bayer, he will have to develop the club’s biggest impact player. Something that could also be said about Bundestrainer Löw, as Havertz will have to fill the big shoes left by Mesut Özil.
Löw, however, has one big advantage over Bosz. Havertz’s talent has not been left unnoticed, and there is now talk in Germany that he could become the first German player to cost more than €100 million. With no exit clause in his contract and the big clubs lining up for his services, it is not unreasonable to think in that category. Bayern München, in particular, could be the club that could make this happen – it would be one of many firsts. The first German player to cost €100 million and the first internal €100 million Bundesliga transfer.
Whether this scenario will actually take place remains to be seen. But the fact that Havertz can be imagined to be part of such a scenario shows the sort of potential the boy from Aachen brings to the table.
Manuel Veth is the owner and Editor in Chief of the Futbolgrad Network. He also works as a freelance journalist and among others works for the Bundesliga and Pro Soccer USA. He holds a Doctorate of Philosophy in History from King’s College London, and his thesis is titled: “Selling the People’s Game: Football’s transition from Communism to Capitalism in the Soviet Union and its Successor States,” which is available HERE. Originally from Munich, Manuel has lived in Amsterdam, Kyiv, Moscow, Tbilisi, London, and currently is located in Victoria BC, Canada. Follow Manuel on Twitter @ManuelVeth.