It’s so far so good for Kai Havertz but he’s yet to make his mark on the history of German football. The 20-year-old is indispensable to Bayer Leverkusen, but he’s not gained this status quite yet within the German national side. Havertz is patient though, and sees himself as a learner within the team at the moment. Still.
Former teammate Tin Jedvaj has heaped praise on Havertz. Now of Augsburg on loan, Jedvaj played together with Havertz for a long time and his quotes speak volumes on the value and quality that he possesses. “You have to treat someone of his calibre like gold dust, he’s that good.”
Joachim Löw finally has Havertz in his plans – he knows that the Leverkusen man feels most at home on a football pitch. There has been plenty of discussion as to where Havertz should fall in the pecking order of the German national side. He is almost always picked in the squad, which is a step in the right direction if you are to believe Jedvaj’s contentions. But he usually finds himself on the bench – ten times he has been in the squad, five times he has made the bench. Havertz has started twice for Germany but has never played the full 90.
Too little for a player of his calibre and history? In 2016 Havertz got the silver Fritz-Walter-Medaille with Germany U17s before he eventually got gold in 2018 as the best player in the U19s. In April 2018 he also made his 50th Bundesliga appearance, the youngest ever to do so at the tender age of 18 years 307 days. He was an influential figure for Leverkusen last season scoring 17 goals and providing four assists. His teammates rave about him, his opponents bow to him. After the 2018/19 season, he was voted the kicker 'player of the season', so we can safely say he’s quite good. He’s a player that people will come to watch, a player that can dictate games, decide them with one pass. He’s a player that wants the ball, who sees the pitch, his teammates and the goal in their entirety. Havertz is quick, technically gifted, can head the ball well, and isn’t shy in doing his defensive duties either. Almost the complete player then it would seem - a veritable all-rounder.
The head coach has plenty to say about him: “I know exactly what Kai Havertz brings to the team and what qualities he possesses. He’s great to watch,” said Joachim Löw. “For us it’s about building his awareness and integrating him in to the team, but it’s clear that he can be an incredibly important player for our team. There’s a place for him in this team, no question.” The coach isn’t holding back then, but patience is key. Löw already has midfielders in his squad – Kroos, Gündogan, Reus, Goretzka – all players with quality and experience. It’s clear to Löw that “Havertz will play an important part in the future of this team.” When this future will become the present is one of the biggest questions surrounding German football at the moment. But Havertz has no problem waiting his turn: “I’m still relatively new to the team, I have to work hard to earn my place,” he said. With the national team, he’s playing with guys who have already seen everything, won everything. He wants to end up being one of those players himself so he doesn’t just look forward to every match, but every training session too. “There are players here that I can learn a lot from,” said Havertz. “I often see it written in the papers that I’m not happy with my role in the national team because I’m of the mindset that I should be playing more. Of course I’m an ambitious guy but I’m only 20 years old, hopefully I have plenty more years of playing for the national team ahead of me.”
Havertz has had some good moments with the national team. In a EURO 2020 qualifier, Havertz came on in the 68th minute. Germany had already taken the lead through a nice goal from Marcel Halstenberg, but Havertz made a difference when he came on. Immediately after entering the pitch, he put a header just wide of the left post. In the 84th minute, he plucked a Marco Reus pass out of the sky but his shot was blocked and went out for a corner. The first moment that counted for Havertz came late on. It was late in to added time against Northern Ireland in Belfast when Havertz ran in to the opponent’s box before spotting Serge Gnabry at the far post and squaring it to him for a 2-0 lead. Havertz’s assist wasn’t the prettiest moment in this game, but it showed that he doesn’t change or lose any of his ability when he swaps out a Bayer 04 jersey for a white Germany one. After the goal there was a feeling of relief that flooded through the German section of Windsor Park.
Relief for Joachim Löw as the team sealed the victory late on, relief for Serge Gnabry that he had managed to get his ninth goal in ten games for Germany, and finally relief for Havertz who had finally got some numbers on the board in terms of his international career statistics. But he was less concerned about that and more about the team. “It was an important game for our young team. We’re still lacking a little bit of cohesion but games like this bring us closer together because realistically, most of us haven’t played with each other that much before.” Is Havertz fully integrated in to the DFB team then? How the players celebrate with each other and how they talk about each other in between games are usually good indicators for that. After the 2-0 win in Belfast, Havertz and Gnabry celebrated during which Havertz threw Gnabry over his shoulder before accidentally dropping him head first on to the floor, which Gnabry later joked about on Twitter: “Great win for us! But remind me never to celebrate with Kai Havertz again – it’s too dangerous.”