Kai Havertz may only be 19 years old, but he has the hopes of a nation on his shoulders. Three months ago, the Bayer Leverkusen attacker received the gold Fritz-Walter-Medal, and now Die Mannschaft coach Joachim Löw wants to develop Havertz further, step by step.
It took place at his first DFB training session. Kai Havertz was only 15 years old and had received a call up to represent Germany U16s. He travelled to Malente, near Lübeck in Northern Germany, to join up with the most talented youngsters in the country. This was a huge opportunity for Havertz, meeting up with Meikel Schönweitz, who would coach Havertz through Die Mannschaft’s youth ranks. “I explained to him that his attacking play really was impressive, sometimes exceptional for someone his age. However, he would have to improve his defensive work to become a complete footballer,” remembers Schönweitz. “In the following training session, we were forced to cut the session short after Kai went into a tackle too aggressively. It was clear to us from the incident that he was more than just a talented attacker.
This match was followed by over 30 appearances for Germany’s youth teams. Havertz played a key role in securing a third place for the Germany U17s at the 2016 European Championships before receiving the silver (2016) and gold Fritz-Walter-Medals (2018). At just 17 years old, Havertz made his Bundesliga debut for Bayer Leverkusen and went on to score his first top-flight goal. He has now made over 60 appearances for the Werkself, and his talent grew even further in 2018. Both on and off the pitch, Havertz has shown the requirements necessary to continue to develop.
“On the pitch I would simply like to have fun, win and play my part in helping the team,” said Havertz. “In positive terms, the last two and a half years have actually flown by. I’m trying to reflect on this period, put things right and use this as motivation to continue to do more.” He is clearly focused on his progression; he speaks softly and chooses his words correctly. Havertz also has A-Levels and has lived away from home for two years, since he moved away from hometown Aachen to live in Leverkusen. “It has helped me mature into an adult and to take on extra responsibilities,” he says. “Then, when I have questions, my family, friends and club are there to help me.”
Havertz was given more tips shortly after Joachim Löw called him up to the senior Germany squad for the first fixtures following the World Cup. Havertz celebrated his Die Mannschaft debut on the 9th September after coming off the bench in the 88th minute in Germany’s 2-1 friendly victory over Peru. He became the first player born in 1999 to represent the senior national team and felt comfortable in the national team setup. Havertz was joined in the Germany squad by Leverkusen teammates Julian Brandt and Jonathan Tah while the youngster was trading diagonal balls with Thomas Müller and tricks with Timo Werner in training.
“The standard is really high. You can see the high quality in various little ways. Passing accuracy, change of direction, dummies, dynamics and awareness on the pitch. If you lose the ball here, you have to run to get it back,” he says. “So many players in this squad have won trophies and they have so much experience – it is extraordinary. Of course seeing this motivates you to do more. I’m trying to bring my expertise to the squad and take a lot out of my experience with the squad.”
This was evident in his second appearance for Die Mannschaft, in the 3-0 friendly win against Russia in November. Havertz started the match, and was on hand to play in Serge Gnabry for Germany’s third goal. The interchange between both players made the difference in the move. His awareness and composure in possession, his movement and his creativity - all of these traits show what Havertz can do. “I want to build the play from midfield and create chances in front of goal,” he says, when describing his role in the match. Löw is cautiously using his talents and ensuring expectations do not rise too high. “Kai only left school a year ago,” said the Germany head coach. “We all know what he can do and it is fun to watch him play. We will continue to develop him step by step.”