Kai Havertz has made a fast start to his career on the football pitch. No other player in the history of the Bundesliga has reached the 50 appearance mark as quickly as he has. And now comes the next big test for the Germany Under-19 international. On Tuesday evening, Bayer Leverkusen host FC Bayern Munich in the semi-final of the DFB-Pokal. The 18-year-old spoke about the upcoming test against the record champions, his first memories of the DFB-Pokal and his dreams of playing for the Germany senior side.
DFB.de: Kai, after your 4-1 win over Frankfurt on the weekend, you’re now the youngest player in Bundesliga history to have made 50 appearances. Congratulations! It was a great personal performance as well, as you picked up two assists.
Kai Havertz: It wasn’t just a good performance from me, but the team as a whole. Both wins (against Leipzig and Frankfurt) were extremely important for us. We’re now back in the thick of it at the top of the table.
DFB.de: What does the record mean to you?
Havertz: It’s definitely a nice accomplishment. But it’s not really relevant from a team perspective. There are other things which are more important. You can’t rest on your laurels, because football never stops.
DFB.de: Up next, it’s the DFB-Pokal semi-final against Bayern Munich. What personal memories do you have of the competition?
Havertz: In my family, the 2004 final between Alemannia Aachen and Werder Bremen is of big importance. I was only five years old at the time though, so my memory of it isn’t that clear. My whole family are passionate members of Alemannia Aachen, including me. We went to Berlin to watch the game live from the stadium. I had a season ticket at Aachen when I was younger.
DFB.de: It’s you who’s involved in the competition this time around. Will the upcoming game against Bayern be up there in your career highlights to date?
Havertz: Oh, for sure. There are still a lot of players in our team who haven’t yet participated in a DFB-Pokal semi-final.
DFB.de: With 4-1 wins against two of your closest rivals in the race for the Champions League spots this season, you’re definitely coming into the game against Bayern in a rich vein of form...
Havertz: The victories were really important for our confidence. It’s clear that Bayern are of a different caliber, though. Nevertheless, we can and will go out there with the belief that we can win it. It might be Bayern, but If we play in the same way as we have done in our last two games, we still have a chance.
DFB.de: In Sven Bender you have a player that has played in five DFB-Pokal finals with Borussia Dortmund and has beaten FC Bayern on multiple occasions. Has he already spoken to the team ahead of the game?
Havertz: Not yet, but he’ll probably do it soon. We’ve already spoken about the fact that he’s already won the competition a few times already in his career. I take everything he says on board. He’s gathered so much experience in these types of games and knows how to approach them.
DFB.de: Stefan Kießling is also someone who could relay some of his past experiences in this competition. He was a part of the Leverkusen squad that last went to the final back in 2009. That side knocked out FC Bayern on their way as well...
Havertz: It would obviously be amazing if “Kies” could get to the final one last time with us before he retires. He let us know that’s what he wanted before the season even started. It’s another reason for us to give everything we have.
DFB.de: Let’s talk about FC Bayern. Leverkusen lost both of the previous games this season against them 3-1. You played to their level in Munich, but couldn’t quite make use of the chances you created. What has to be done better to beat them this time?
Havertz: We have to be more clinical in front of goal. Like you just mentioned, we actually did create quite a few chances in Munich. It could easily have been 2-2 or 3-3. In the second game at home, we were too open at the back too frequently. We didn’t find the space enough in attack either, so we need to improve on that as well. We want to play our attacking, attractive brand of football. We’ve shown in the last few games what we’re capable of. Even if Bayern pose a much bigger challenge, I’m feeling positive.
DFB.de: What are some of the hardest things about playing FC Bayern?
Havertz: Bayern don’t really have a “B” team. You could argue that they played their second choice side against Gladbach on the weekend (the game ended in a 5-1 win for Bayern). Despite that, they still had a number of quality players with big game experience out there. It’s always hard against them. You often have to play without the ball a lot and it’s easy to get tired. We have to be ready for it. We will give our absolute all.
DFB.de: How much fun is it to play with the rest of the guys at Bayer Leverkusen?
Havertz: It’s so much fun, because we have a great mix of guys in the squad. We have young players that are hungry to prove themselves, as well as lots of experienced guys like “Kies” and the Bender twins. We all get along really well and that shows itself on the pitch.
DFB.de: Were there any players that you looked up to when you were younger?
Havertz: Originally it was Leo Messi, but then I started to model myself after players like Mesut Özil, whose play style I really admire. I don’t really have a role model as such any more.
DFB.de: Mesut Özil is a World Cup winner. You just missed out on reaching the European Championship with the Germany Under-19s yourself in March earlier this year. How disappointed were you?
Havertz: It was really disappointing. We were so close to getting through, but then we missed out due to a last second goal in the other game in our group. It was extremely tough. Our coach Meikel Schönweitz dealt with it very well though, because he reminded us that we are still very young and need to learn from these types of experiences. I’ve moved on from it now and I’ve turned my attention to the other tasks at hand this season.
DFB.de: What do you feel your chances of one day representing Germany at the senior level are like?
Havertz: In the long term hopefully, it’s my dream. But I’m also very aware of the quality that Joachim Löw has at his disposal right now. It’s extremely hard to break your way into the senior side at the moment. Right now, I’m concentrating fully on playing for Leverkusen.