The Bundesliga has produced some of the most prodigious talents in European football and Kai Havertz has become the next youth sensation from the German talent machine.
At 20-years of age, Havertz has already established himself as one of the best players in the Bundesliga and commanded interest from the likes of Bayern Munich, Manchester United, Liverpool, Manchester City, and Barcelona.
Often times, the talent of young players can be grossly exaggerated and they can attract unwarranted interest from top European sides. But this isn’t the case with 20-year-old Havertz. In nearly four years of Bundesliga football, Havertz has shown a level of talent and consistency that merits attention from football’s elite clubs.
For such a young player, his output in terms of goals and assists is remarkable. He already has 102 Bundesliga appearances to his name, in which time he has racked up 26 goals and 17 assists, meaning Havertz averages an impressive 0.42 goal involvements per game. Within the context of four managerial changes and just one Champions League finish in his time at Leverkusen, these numbers are all the more eye catching.
Havertz has played a variety of roles for Leverkusen over the past few seasons, featuring as a number six, number eight, right-winger, and even as a false nine. However, he has performed best as a number ten or as an eight with the license to push forward and dictate the course of games.
This has been the German’s role since the appointment of Peter Bosz last season, playing in a 4-3-3 as a free-roaming central midfielder with the screening presence of Charles Aranguiz behind him. With a style focused on possession and building through the thirds, Bosz provided Havertz with a high degree of creative license and encourages him to swap positions with the forwards. It led to the German international scoring 17 Bundesliga goals last campaign and cementing himself as one of the league’s best players.
This season, however, Havertz has failed to replicate the same output. The departure of Julian Brandt and an arduous first half of the season for the club as a whole has led to the Aachen born youngster scoring just twice.
While this is a significant drop-off, the underlying numbers suggest that Havertz is performing just as well – if not better – than last season. In the 18/19 season, Havertz scored 17 goals from an expected goals tally of 11.99, suggesting he should have scored fewer goals based on the shots he took.
This season, he has scored twice from an expected goals figure of 2.81, while his expected assists has increased from 0.09 last season to 0.25. He has also maintained a pass accuracy of 87% and averaged 2.4 key passes per 90 and 2.0 successful dribbles per game, both of which are significant improvements from last season. Havertz has not stagnated, and clubs shouldn’t be dissuaded by his lower goals tally.
Furthermore, many of Havertz’s best attributes are not reflected in statistics. His movement both on and off the ball are superb; as he excels at finding space in the channels, in between the lines, or out wide to affect play.
His ability to execute chipped passes, crosses, and through balls combined with his range of passing mean that once he finds space, Havertz is often able to find a teammate further forward. Alternatively, his movement allows him to arrive in prime goal-scoring positions where his 6’2” frame and finishing ability enables him to dispatch chances.
With such a well-developed repertoire at a young age, it’s no surprise that Havertz is attracting attention from a number of world-class teams.
His most likely destination is Bayern Munich, given that they have a tendency of signing the best young German talents within the Bundesliga. However, the likes of Manchester United, PSG, Liverpool, Real Madrid, and Chelsea all have the financial resources to acquire him.
In terms of tactical system, Barcelona or Manchester City would be the most sensible destination for the German. Both Quique Setien and Pep Guardiola utilize a tactical system with several similarities to that of Bayer Leverkusen’s; such as playing two attack-minded central midfielders in a 4-3-3, allowing a high degree of positional fluidity in attack, and encouraging the midfield players to supply the forwards with direct, penetrative passes along the ground. With David Silva leaving City at the end of the season and Barcelona’s midfield appearing ponderous at times this term, it could be a suitable move for both parties.
Havertz is a truly exciting prospect. He combines the technical ability of a traditional playmaker with dynamism, intelligent movement, and an eye for goal. In the era of pressing, possession-based football, Havertz is the prototypical number ten of the future.
With his contract running out in 2022, it is likely that his time at Bayer Leverkusen will soon come to a close. Securing his signature will no doubt be a top priority for clubs across Europe.