29th May 2017. By Edward Stratmann.
Although it's been an utterly disappointing season for Bayer Leverkusen, the emergence of 17-year-old sensation, Kai Havertz, has been a massive positive.
In a season littered with terrible results that ultimately cost Roger Scmhidt his job and one that saw the club flirting with relegation before scraping home to finish 12th, Havertz has undoubtedly offered a rare bright spot of excitement for the fans.
Since debuting on October 15, 2016 in Leverkusen's loss to Werder Bremen, which saw him become the club's youngest ever player, he's steadily gone about adapting to life in the Bundesliga and showing what a remarkable talent he is.
Thereafter, on top of becoming Die Werkself's youngster goalscorer, he's gone onto make an impressive 23 league appearances and cement himself as a crucial component within the Leverkusen squad. And to round out his extraordinary breakthrough campaign, the German youth international put in a superb, man of the match performance in his team's final match of the season.
Throughout the 6-2 drubbing of a usually resolute Hertha Berlin, Havertz showed off precisely why he's such a coveted and highly regarded prospect. Facing off with one of the league's most outstanding left-backs in Marvin Plattenhardt, who's just been called up to the senior German national team for the Confederations Cup and is attracting interest from Bayern Munich and Arsenal, Havertz's technical proficiency, nifty movement and smarts ensured it was a challenging afternoon for his illustrious adversary.
From his inside right station, there was so much to admire about his exertions. To kick things off, his sheer composure and calm in possession was once again on show, which he used, in combination with his towering 186cm frame, to hold off his marker's pressure before assuredly passing to a colleague or embarking on a dribble.
Although he made the odd error and the rare poor decision, the technically gifted prodigy's competency with the ball at his feet was a joy to behold. Through his splendid first touch, glue like dribbling control, subtle body feints and competent distribution, Havertz's quality here served as a constant menace to his opposition. Indeed, his two wonderfully taken goals were fine examples of this. His first saw him play a crisp one-two with Javier Hernandez and then blast his first time finish into the back of the net. And his second, where he coolly swept the ball home with another slick one touch finish.
Havertz duly supplemented the afore with his incisive movement, a component of his game that is extremely advanced despite his tender years. Displaying a strong understanding of surroundings, he often found pockets of space in between the lines and in the right half space. But his work in the former, where Leverkusen's four attackers would overload the 10 spaces and combine to unlock the defence, was definitely the most fruitful avenue, as his first goal aptly illustrated.
Havertz really couldn't have wished for a better way to finish his first Bundesliga crusade, which has been a crucial learning experience in his development and given him the confidence that he knows he's more than capable of playing at the highest level.
"Not in my wildest dreams did I see it going so well for me on a personal level, when I think back to this time last year," Havertz insisted after the Hertha win.
"Being in the team, scoring goals, chipping in with assists: it's just fantastic for me. It's not been the best season for the team, but we ended on a real high note [against Hertha], and showed what we're capable of."
For Havertz, who's even had to mix his schooling with playing professional football, his remarkable success has been nothing short of spectacular.
At 17 and already so highly skilled, the footballing world is unquestionably his oyster.
Bayer Leverkusen's Kai Havertz - 17 and Destined for Success
29th May 2017. By Edward Stratmann.