Kai Havertz has quickly developed into a key player for both Bayer Leverkusen and Germany. - © 2019 DFL
Kai Havertz has quickly developed into a key player for both Bayer Leverkusen and Germany. - © 2019 DFL
bundesliga

Bayer Leverkusen talisman Kai Havertz: Europe's best young midfielder

It was a sensational 2018/19 for Bayer Leverkusen midfielder Kai Havertz, whose 17 goals helped Die Werkself clamber into the top four on the final day of the season and qualify for the UEFA Champions League. And he shows no signs of relenting in 2019/20...

It beggars belief that the Germany international, who last year enjoyed the best season of his career to date, only turned 20 in June. What he achieved whilst still a teenager would be the envy of all the illustrious names whose footprints he has far overstepped in such a short period of time.

Michael Ballack, Toni Kroos, Arturo Vidal – the list of phenomenal players Leverkusen have boasted on their books includes some of the world's best midfielders. In Havertz, who first joined the club at the age of 11, they have another name on that list, and one earning similar superlatives.

Watch: Kai Havertz's attacking masterclass unlocked

After making his debut in October 2016 as a substitute against Werder Bremen, thus becoming Leverkusen's youngest-ever player to debut in the Bundesliga, Havertz went on to make a remarkable total of 28 appearances and score four goals in his maiden campaign in professional football.

"I only really realised I might make it two or three years ago," Havertz told bundesliga.com. "We won the German U17 title. That's when I was invited to train here with the senior team for the first time."

Havertz quickly became the youngest player to wear a Leverkusen shirt in the Champions League, debuting from the start in Europe's elite continental club competition in a last-16 tie with Atletico Madrid. He would have appeared once more in the return leg, if not for a school exam he had to sit.

Havertz delighted fans young and old as he scored a remarkable 17 league goals in 2018/19. - 2018 DFL

More records inevitably followed, with Havertz becoming Leverkusen's youngest Bundesliga goalscorer and, at the age of just 18 years and 307 days, the most precocious player to reach 50 appearances in the German top flight. He scored three and assisted nine in his second season, but there was no stopping there.

"I guess reading the game has always been one of my strengths," Havertz explained. "A certain composure on the ball and the ability to make the right choices quickly."

Indeed, the elegant Havertz came of age in a 2018/19 campaign which saw him raise the bar even further, becoming not only Die Werkself's reliable midfield lynchpin but assuming more and more responsibility, and becoming arguably the most important individual in Peter Bosz's team.

He celebrated his 100th competitive appearance by scoring the winner against VfB Stuttgart, and rounded out the campaign in style by becoming the first teenager in Bundesliga history to reach 17 goals in a single season. He was also instrumental in Leverkusen's return to the Champions League after a two-season absence.

Watch: All 17 of Havertz's goals in the 2018/19 season!

"If you can always be one or two steps ahead of your opponent, you can already win the game," Leon Bailey told bundesliga.com when speaking about his teammate. "And I think that's just the player he is."

A whopping nine of Havertz's 17 goals gave Leverkusen a 1-0 lead – no player in the Bundesliga opened the scoring more frequently this term. And 11 of them came under Bosz, whose attack-minded style allowed Havertz's raw talent rise to the surface even more than before. It was no great surprise, therefore, that the Aachen-born midfielder did not miss a single game all season.

It's equally unsurprising, albeit no less impressive, that Havertz ended the season with three Germany caps after making his debut in the 2-1 friendly victory over Peru in September, 2018.

Picking up where he left off, Havertz kicked off the 2019/20 campaign by becoming the second youngest player in history - behind only Horst Koppel - to score 25 Bundesliga goals, courtesy of a typically sumptuous lob in Leverkusen's opening weekend win over Paderborn.

"You can see why [Leverkusen sporting director] Rudi Völler has labelled him a once-in-a-century talent," Bundesliga legend Lothar Matthäus told bundesliga.com.

"He plays with passion, he's spontaneous, he's very quick, scores goals, his distribution's good, he really works for the team – and all that at such a young age."

With such a seal of approval, Havertz is clearly going places, and few would, or could, refute the claim that he is Europe's best young midfielder.