There’s no mistaking the look of joy on Kai Havertz’s face. Before training even began, the 19-year-old was doing keepie uppies with Julian Brandt, laughing with Timo Werner and passing the ball with with Thomas Müller. Joachim Löw has selected the young Bayer Leverkusen player for the first time, and having made 56 appearances for his club, Havertz could make his first appearance for the national team tonight at 20:45 CEST, when Germany play Peru in Sinsheim.
Attacking midfielder Havertz is another example of the success of the Germany youth setup, with the teenager making 30 appearances in Coach Meikel Schönweitz’s teams. In an interview with editor Ronny Zimmermann, Havertz speaks about his first days with the national team and his phone call with Joachim Löw, and explains why you don’t want to lose the ball in training.
DFB.de: Mr Havertz, can you still remember the first Germany kit that you wore when you were a kid?
Havertz: Unfortunately I can’t really remember, as I often wore club kits when I was younger. That all changed in 2006, when the World Cup was held here. I definitely had a shirt then, like everyone in my family. Our kits were immaculate, and I followed that World Cup with great interest as a 7-year-old.
DFB.de: Now you have your very own kit, with the number 20 on the back. How have you settled into the national team?
Havertz: I’ve settled in well as the lads have been really welcoming and made it easy for me. In general, I feel at home training with the team. I’ve got some experience of the national team set-up from playing in the youth teams, but of course this is the next level. It certainly helps that a lot of younger players are here who I’ve known from the youth squads.
DFB.de: Like Julian Brandt and Jonathan Tah, for example.
Havertz: Exactly. I play with both of them at Bayer Leverkusen as well, so it’s a definite advantage that we know each so well and I could ask them about what it’s like to play for the senior team. When I arrived, I quickly noticed how helpful all the players, coaches and staff are. I can learn so much as a young player from training with players who have won the World Cup. I take note of how they handle certain situations and how they behave, and can then implement a thing or two in my own game.
DFB.de: What did Joachim Löw say when he called you?
Havertz: He phoned me and said that I’d been called up to play, so naturally I was over the moon. He also told me that I shouldn’t be worried at all and that I’d earned my chance to play for the senior team. The boss explained that he’d already seen me play in several Bundesliga matches, and all I had to do was familiarise myself with the higher playing standard and the set-up.
DFB.de: Two and a half years ago, you were playing at the U17 European Championships in Azerbaijan and got to the semi finals. Now, you could become the first player born in 1999 to play for the national team.
Havertz: I’d be delighted of course, if I got the chance. But I don’t want to get ahead of myself. When I’m out on the pitch, I want to have fun, win and put in a good shift for the team. The past two and a half years have flown by, but in a good way. I always try to reflect on those years to incentivise myself. I’m filled with enthusiasm and have a clear focus, so that I can perform as best as I can. I’m really enjoying myself at the moment.
DFB.de: How would you rate the standard of training?
Havertz: The level is really high. You notice it especially with the little things – precise passing, changes of direction, body feints, playing dynamic football and reviewing your performance. When you lose the ball in these training sessions, you have to chase it for a while. Also, a lot of players here have won great trophies and have so much experience, which is phenomenal. They motivate me to try to show my ability and learn from them.
DFB.de: What are your strengths?
Havertz: I think the Coach or other people can probably judge better than I can. I think that I have good awareness and am strong technically. I like to run the game from midfield and can also create goal-scoring opportunities.
DFB.de: There was another surprise waiting for you after training finished today, when team captain Manuel Neuer presented you the Fritz Walter Medal. You’ve been recognised as the best U19 talent of 2017/18. What does that mean to you?
Havertz: The prize is a special honour and I’m overjoyed. It’s not just me that’s earned this award though, as my family, trainer, teammates and my first club in Aachen have all helped me along the way. Without their help, none of this would have been possible. I hope they’ll continue to support me in the future.