"Union Berlin's story would eclipse Leicester's"Feb 23
Kai Havertz - The stats that show why the Liverpool target is the real deal as his Bayer Leverkusen side prepare to face Bayern Munich
Kai Havertz’s Bayer Leverkusen will become the latest team to attempt to derail the Bayern Munich juggernaut this Saturday afternoon exclusively live on BT Sport. Here, Paul Macdonald of FootballCritic breaks down just why the Leverkusen wonderkid is so special.
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Take one glance at Kai Havertz’s stats since the beginning of 2020 and it’s easy to see why he’s the man of the moment.
The 20-year-old is a long-term target of Liverpool, Manchester United, Bayern Munich and just about anyone who has watched him recently.
His languid, relaxed style is reminiscent of the playmakers of old. But the effortlessness in which he approaches the game hides an undercurrent of pace and intelligence of movement which make him the archetypal modern attacking midfielder.
It’s not all been plain sailing for Havertz – a player who BT Sport’s German football expert Rafa Honigstein calls the future of German football.
Expectations in Germany are so high in respect of what they want, and hope, he will become and that scrutiny of his early-season Bundesliga performances came with a cost.
Prior to the winter break his two goals and single assist in 1,174 minutes of football were well below what was expected and the golden boy of Germany was out of the side.
Following a return from injury in November he watched on from the sidelines as his team-mates shocked Bayern in the Allianz Arena thanks to centre back Jonathan Tah’s late winner.
Even upon his reinstatement to the starting eleven, the winter break couldn’t come soon enough. Havertz needed time. He later said: “These are phases that shape you as a player and as a person.
"You learn the most in these situations. The things being written about me weren't all positive, but things like that do not hold me back, and I'll just try to prove myself again.”
A different player emerged, one that learned from the experience of so many highs and lows in such a short space of time and was ready to take them in his stride.
Since the return of the Bundesliga on January 19, his form has been staggering; in all competitions he has registered 12 goals and seven assists, adding up to 1.16 goal contributions P90. He has five goals in four matches since the action returned and opened the scoring in three of those games.
To understand the interest in his talents is to understand how he reached such reverence at just 20. The Fritz Walter medal is an award given out in Germany to youth players. It’s prestigious and regarded as a ticket to the top.
Havertz has won it twice; once in the U17 category, and again in U19. It’s something that doesn’t happen all too often.
So inevitably when he became the then-youngest player in Bundesliga history on making his debut for Bayer Leverkusen in 2016 the hype train didn’t slow down.
He gradually earned more minutes and patiently developed before his breakout 2018/19 that sent him into the stratosphere. He is the youngest Bundesliga player reach both 50 and 100 appearances in the German top flight.
Twenty-three non-penalty goal contributions across 18/19 - a rate of 0.59 per 90 minutes - put him in the mix with some of the most talented youngsters in Europe at just 19.
A full German national team call-up arrived, while only the brilliance of Marco Reus stopped him being crowned the German Footballer of the Year.
He’s had to work his way back to here after his underwhelming start to the season, but he’s certainly making up for lost time.
He runs with his head up, assessing the pitch methodically, but can also take the ball into feet while facing back towards his midfielders. He spots gaps in the channels and moves quickly through the gears. He’s a composite footballer; playmaker, defence-stretcher and, likely, centre-forward.
You can see these various guises in the numbers - his 0.6 Big Chances Created P90 is top 10 in the Bundesliga, while his expected assists per 90 of 0.37 is fifth in the division (minimum 1,000 minutes).
Considering how the first part of the season went, this is testament to how he’s turned things around from a creative standpoint.
He’s still working out what he needs to be. Depending on how games have been going, boss Peter Bosz has utilised him as a main striker or in a more withdrawn role and he doesn’t seem to miss a beat in either. You could see a coach like Jurgen Klopp creating something special with this raw material.
For now, he’s just enjoying playing again. A corner in his career turned at just 20, he’ll be stronger for it. He could be dominating the game for the next decade. Bayern beware.
You can watch Havertz in action all season long in the Bundesliga right here on BT Sport. We'll be showing every German top-flight match from now until the end of the season - as well as action from the Premier League and FA Cup later this month. View our wide range of sign-up packages here and we can get you signed up in just 15 minutes.