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Why ‘once-in-a-generation’ talent Kai Havertz is wanted by Europe’s top clubs despite £90m price tag

Bayern Munich, Liverpool, Manchester United, Barcelona and Real Madrid would all love to recruit the 20-year-old. Why does he have Europe's elite in such a spin for his signature?

Melissa Reddy
Senior Football Correspondent
Monday 25 May 2020 10:02 BST
Coronavirus: How has sport been affected?

“Every major club wants a piece of Kai Havertz and that’s because he’s rare and will be worth the fuss,” recruitment expert David Webb tells The Independent.

His assessment on Bayer Leverkusen’s multi-faceted maestro is five years in the making, stretching back to his role as head of elite potential identification at Tottenham – and it is accurate.

Bayern Munich chairman, Karl-Heinz Rummenigge, has already plotted the 20-year-old’s path to the Allianz Arena. Marco Reus has publicly revealed a mission to thwart that and guide him to Borussia Dortmund instead.

Liverpool have been long-term suitors, while Manchester United have conceded it would be remiss of them not to explore the possibility of securing a player with such a high ceiling.

Real Madrid’s sales pitch has been presented to Havertz by Toni Kroos, a midfielder he stylistically idolises.

Havertz is a target for some of Europe’s biggest clubs (Rex)

Barcelona’s in-depth scouting archive on him, started in 2016, concludes he would be their perfect attacking weapon in the middle of the park.

Michael Ballack wants Havertz, contracted until 2022, to continue his development at BayArena for at least another year.

The starlet billed to become Germany’s first Ballon d’Or winner since Lothar Matthaus has an envious pick of his next destination and his price tag will be head-spinning given Leverkusen’s €100 million-plus valuation.

But what makes him so special?

“I first started watching Kai through the Germany youth system, from Under-16 level when I was at Tottenham,” says Webb, who has been credited with discovering Wilfried Zaha during a two-decade career.

“I followed his breakthrough Bundesliga season in 2016-17 intensively. He made 24 appearances in the league, got 10 goal contributions and run outs in the Champions League.

“He didn’t look out of place and that’s as a teenager being introduced in a top environment.

“He’s got so many valuable qualities. He contributes goals; scoring, assisting or creating them from deeper and he has done so consistently.

“His intelligence in every position he’s played really marks him out. “When he was being brought through, he was more more of a No 10 working in the half space or a central attacking midfielder that played in a three. He can now play right midfield, right forward and the false nine or nine-and-a-half position.

“If a team is looking for a forward who can drop deep smartly and if they have two fast wingers – the way Liverpool play with Roberto Firmino, Mohamed Salah and Sadio Mane for example – he can withdraw and play the latter two in or be threat in the box himself.

“You can also use him with a reference point striker, so with Tammy Abraham or Harry Kane for instance, to work off them because he is exceptional at spotting the right pass, building play and his movement causes all sorts of problems.

“He’s got such a rounded game at such a young age already. Playmakers would usually do the bulk of their work outside the box, but he is lethal in area and is so good with his head, which is unique for such a creative player.

“The elite clubs he’s being linked with – Liverpool, Manchester City, Barcelona, Bayern Munich, Real Madrid – and the money he will cost is because of a combination of his game intelligence, the range of attributes he has and positions he can excel in.”

Havertz converting a penalty against Gladbach (EPA)

The recruitment of gifted youngsters generally carries great risk, but Webb rates Havertz as “a banker in the same category as Jadon Sancho and Kylian Mbappe” given his consistency of performances and depth of experience.

He has already amassed over a century of Bundesliga appearances and no player has scored more than his 34 goals and counting in the division before turning 21.

“You look at his profile, his experience already and the regularity with which he performs at a high level, you can have great confidence that he is the real deal,” Webb says.

“He has been consistent and established himself as one of the best young players in the world at Leverkusen, which is also a good sign because he’s had to shoulder a lot of responsibility there and take the lead.

“He’s obviously got a maturity about him, which comes across not just in his performances but in his character.”

Scouts have followed his progress closely (Bongarts/Getty) (Bongarts/Getty Images)

A scout for one of England’s biggest clubs, who has been tracking Havertz since September 2016, says the German is not only technically gifted but has “a robustness about him.”

With 14 years of experience at assessing players between the ages of 16 and 21, he is convinced Leverkusen’s standout star will progress to become one of the best in the world.

“He combines all kind of passing actions with excellent off-the-ball movements and deals well with being under pressure,” the scout says.

“Havertz has the skills set in his passing range, short or long, to switch the play. He is quick and effective with one-touch passing in tighter areas to eliminate and threaten opposition defences.

“He’s also a good ball carrier, has excellent decision-making and shows good composure regardless of game situations.

“Havertz is a top finisher, has great movement and intelligence to work between the lines and find spaces to receive and build play.

“He is always scanning during a game and elite clubs will see him as an asset as he has good technical ability, intelligence and constantly effects games.

“Havertz plays numerous positions well and has a strong desire to improve, which makes him an attractive investment.”

Havertz is one of a number of exciting young German talents (Getty)

Bundesliga commentator, Derek Rae, has soundtracked the development arc of a “once-in-a-generation talent” that has become one of the brightest prospects in the game.

“I remember watching him in his first few appearances for Leverkusen back in 2016,” he says.

“You could see there was exceptional raw gifts there and he wasn’t flashy, rather a player who wanted to put his skills towards bettering the team.

“In the years leading up to that, he had been in and out of some of the youth teams, but a growth spurt saw him soar as a player in his mid-teens.

“With each season, he has scaled greater heights.

“I did think he dipped very slightly earlier in this campaign, but since the tail end of 2019 he has excelled again.

“He can capably carry Leverkusen’s ambitions on this shoulders. He’s tactically very flexible too, which is of course crucial in the modern game.”

Havertz has enjoyed another promising campaign (Getty)

With commentators needing a wide lens in order to properly detail players, what has particularly stood out about Havertz?

“He’s unusual in that he’s tall and doesn’t have the classic build or look of a playmaker type, but he glides through games.

“He does so many things brilliantly and seemingly without effort. His weight of pass with the left foot is exceptional, coupled with his reading of how to unlock a defence with a timely ball.

“His other foot isn’t bad either! He can score goals in all manner of ways, from long range efforts to finishing from just a few yards out, to headers as we saw against Werder Bremen.

“Havertz has that unruffled quality about him, as though he’s taking it all in his stride and doing what he’s meant to do.

“Most German fans see a once-in-a-generation talent, the kind of player with the potential to be a true great. He is already someone who will get you up out of your seat with one telling pass or classy goal.

“As good at Germany were in 2014 when they won the World Cup, they didn’t really have a player like Havertz. Then again, he is something of a one-off.

“I would prefer to see him stay at Leverkusen for another year as I can’t see that it would hamper him in any way. It’s usually an irresistible allure when Bayern come calling for a a German player and it’s hard to imagine him not playing in another top league some day, be it Spain or England.

“I’ve heard from many fans in various countries that have watched him properly since the Bundesliga returned and have seen how special he is for themselves.

“As it was put to me in one text, “OK, now I see what the fuss is all about.”

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