Germany legend Lothar Matthäus has tipped rising Bayer Leverkusen star Kai Havertz to follow in his footsteps by being officially recognised as the best player in the world.
Havertz, who turned 20 in June, scored a stunning 17 Bundesliga goals from midfield last season to help Leverkusen finish fourth and to seal a return to the UEFA Champions League.
Capped three times by Germany, he finished second to Borussia Dortmund captain Marco Reus in the voting for the 2019 German Footballer of the Year prize.
Matthäus, meanwhile, was named the FIFA World Player of the Year in 1991 – a year after captaining West Germany to FIFA World Cup glory. The 58-year-old, who won seven Bundesliga titles with Bayern Munich, now feels that Havertz has the potential to one day win the Best FIFA Men’s Player prize.
“He has set the bar very high – for me he was the player of the season,” Matthäus told kicker magazine.
“If Havertz can maintain this high standard, with his natural talent, cleverness, presence on the pitch, and goal threat, then he could someday follow me as world footballer of the year.”
Watch: See all of Kai Havertz's Bundesliga goals in 2018/19
Matthäus praised Havertz for keeping his feet on the ground to date, and said that playing in the Champions League again will further help his development.
Leverkusen goalkeeper Lukas Hradecky echoed club captain Lars Bender by also telling kicker that he has been hugely impressed by his teammate – often smiling to himself while watching how easy Havertz makes the game look.
“The lads here are just happy to play with him,” Hradecky said.
“Players even want to join us in order to play with him. This elegance, calmness, and sense of space usually only comes to a player when they’re 28.”
Watch: Havertz's attacking masterclass unlocked
Last year, at the age of 18 years and 307 days, Havertz became the youngest player in Bundesliga history to make 50 appearances.
In April he scored on his 100th appearance for Leverkusen, and his brace in the 5-1 win over Hertha Berlin on the final day of 2018/19 made him the highest-scoring teenager in a single Bundesliga campaign.
The Aachen native, who started all but one of Die Werkself’s league matches last term, also netted three times in the UEFA Europa League.