Key Stats – Games: 30 / Goals 12 / Assists 6 /
German football has long been synonymous with many a wonderful midfielder. Netzer, Mattheus, Grabowski, Effenberg, Ballack, Kroos. These are players who have won the ultimate prizes, played for the most iconic teams and have been blessed with a talent that through hard work and dedication have led them into the pantheon of football greatness. Kai Havertz will be the next German midfielder to join those ranks. In fact, if his path continues, we could talk about Havertz featuring in a list of great forwards alongside his midfield ranking, such is the immense ability this young man possesses.
A youth graduate at Bayer 04 Leverkusen, Havertz now is in his fourth season and has cemented his position as the team’s talisman. A player in which all play goes through, whether that is receiving the ball directly from the keeper to begin a swift counter attack, or protecting the ball in tight situations just enough to free up space to exploit.
Using Smarterscout‘s data analysis, it’s clear how valuable Havertz is to Leverkusen’s overall attacking play. His link-up play with attacking players such as Leon Bailey, Karim Bellarabi and Kevin Volland is central to Peter Bosz’s playing style. His hold-up play and strength in winning aerial duels, coupled with his game intelligence means Havertz affects almost each game he plays in, averaging 0.60 Goals + Assists per game (FBref) which is excellent.
Underpinning all this technical ability is Havertz’s game awareness, ensuring he continues to maintain optimal distance from opposition players, in order to receive the ball. Those times when he finds space limited, the young attacking midfielder is blessed with a skillset that allows him to evade opponents and accelerate into space. Below sees Havertz continually scan to ensure he remains equidistant from the Gladbach players, looking to receive the ball with the intent to drive at the last defender.
This is a player who at 6ft 2”, can command the centre of the pitch, and drive Bayer’s play with his superb dribbling skills. Watching him makes me think of Zidane when he dribbles (also a bit of Moussa Dembele’s time at Spurs), Guti when he’s setting someone up, Suker when he is chipping keepers. His allround nonchalant, relaxed attitude in those moments where often, stress is at its highest, sets him apart from many others.
This season has found Havertz having to ply his skills in many different roles as the departure of Julian Brandt to Borussia Dortmund, has stripped the team of perhaps their most complete midfielder and one who Havertz riffed off superbly in the 2018/2019 campaign (think Simon with Art Garfunkel, John without Paul, Ant without Dec). Smarterscout’s heat map shows how Havertz would link up more across the final two thirds of the pitch, last season when Brandt was a constant in the team.
This season has seen Havertz operate from a more fixed position along the right flank, cutting onto his left foot, looking to release players ahead of him.
It’s clear from Leverkeusen’s overall play that Bosz is now trying to tap into Havertz goal-scoring talent, as he is receiving more balls in the penalty area than ever before, this is despite his increase of dribbles per game from 3.29 per 90 mins, to 5.29.
From all that Havertz displays, it seems that Germany have in their hands a player who not since perhaps Gunter Netzer, has there been a more skilful footballer. One who is capable of dribbling the length of the pitch, chipping the keeper, all with a cheeky ‘What’s all the fuss about?’ smile across his face. Should he remain in the Bundesliga, then Bayern Munich are going to have to spend like never before as a slew of European clubs will be throwing elbows to get his signature. I for one, will just be enjoying him play, wherever he may go.