Bayer Leverkusen attacking midfielder Kai Havertz has been named the Bundesliga’s official April Player of the Month. The award, created by the DFL Deutsche Fußball Liga in cooperation with the Bundesliga’s official licensing partner, EA SPORTS FIFA 19, is decided through a two-stage selection process that considers both the players' individual performance data and a vote by fans and experts.
Kai Havertz (Bayer Leverkusen)
Anyone watching Kai Havertz in full flow may find it hard to believe that the left-footed wonder is just 19 years of age, such is his extraordinary composure, vision and tactical intelligence on a football field. The Bayer 04 Leverkusen star enjoyed one of the richest attacking spells in his career in April, racking up four goals in a single month for the very first time. Overall, he is up to 14 Bundesliga goals for the season, which is an outstanding return for a midfielder.
The Germany international also has a happy knack of scoring when it counts: all four of his goals in April put Die Werkself into the lead (twice for 1-0, twice for 2-1). A rangy 6'2", Havertz not only boasts technical wizardry but also impressive mental strength. Despite being the youngest player in Peter Bosz's starting XI, he has taken over penalty duties since the start of the Rückrunde, successfully converting three spot-kicks out of three, including two in April. "When you're that young, and play so well, and you're so cool and collected from the penalty spot, that's something special," Bosz enthused about his inimitable No.29.
Watch: Havertz collects his Player of the Month award!
The other candidates
Ishak Belfodil (Hoffenheim)
No player scored more Bundesliga goals in April than TSG 1899 Hoffenheim striker Ishak Belfodil. The Algeria international was on target five times in four outings, taking his tally for the season to a career-best 15. Throw in his inch-perfect cross for Adam Szalai against Schalke, and the 27-year-old also had a hand in more goals (6) than anyone else last month. In the Matchday 28 win at Augsburg, he became just the second Hoffenheim player in Bundesliga history to hit a perfect hat-trick. His movement may be a little unorthodox, but the 6'3"Belfodil is a technically gifted and clinical finisher.
"He's a very good player with exceptional quality in one-on-ones," said coach Julian Nagelsmann. "He plays with a lot of tempo and he's very tough to defend against." The Augsburg and Schalke backlines found that out the hard way in April, with the dead-eyed Belfodil requiring just 16 shots to notch five goals against them. In fact, the Mostaganem native – who grew up in France – managed to convert all four of his major scoring opportunities last month, moving to within one goal of Hoffenheim's leading marksman Andrej Kramaric.
Serge Gnabry (FC Bayern München)
With three goals in four games, Serge Gnabry was FC Bayern München's top scorer in April, and he also grabbed two assists – only Ishak Belfodil had a direct hand in more goals all month. Gnabry's equaliser in the 1-1 draw away to 1. FC Nürnberg not only earned his side a valuable point, it was also the 23-year-old's tenth goal of the season, making him just the third player in Bundesliga history to reach double figures in three consecutive years for three different clubs.
Gnabry is more than just a dynamic winger; he is also increasingly assured in possession and found a Bayern colleague with over 85 per cent of his passes in April. Havertz was the only player in this list to top that particular quota. It therefore came as little surprise when Bayern president Uli Hoeneß recently described the Germany international as the most positive surprise of the season, while sporting director Hasan Salihamidzic also singled him out for praise: "He's taken a big step forwards with us and he's a real weapon when he plays." A weapon that was particularly effective in April.
Joshua Kimmich (FC Bayern München)
Joshua Kimmich is enjoying a sensational 2018/19, and in April he notched up his 11th assist of the Bundesliga season. That makes him FC Bayern München's most reliable delivery man, with only Borussia Dortmund starlet Jadon Sancho (14) outdoing him in the assists charts. Kimmich didn't miss a single minute in the Bundesliga last month, and touched the ball 421 times, more than any other player in the division. The Germany international is not just a man of quantity, though, but also of quality, having teed up more shots on goal (20) than anyone else in the Bundesliga.
Kimmich's irrepressible style has made him a popular figure with teammates and top brass alike in Munich, but he has also won admirers further afield. "He's always up for it, he's aggressive, he shows it in his body language," explained Bayer Leverkusen's Julian Brandt, who plays alongside Kimmich for Die Mannschaft. "He's not afraid of anybody and expects every player to be like him." The 24-year-old certainly displayed Bayern's chest-thumping 'Mia san mia' attitude better than any of his teammates in April, especially in Der Klassiker against Borussia Dortmund – where the record champions seized back control of the title race with a resounding 5-0 victory.
Robert Lewandowski (FC Bayern München)
The Polish forward may have only scored two goals in April, but both were significant strikes. His brace against Borussia Dortmund – Bundesliga goals 200 and 201 – not only meant he leapfrogged Gerd Müller as the all-time top scorer in Der Klassiker, they also made him just the fifth player in the league's history to reach a double century of goals. "The way Lewy worked was unbelievable," said Thomas Müller of his teammate after the victory over Dortmund. Indeed, aside from his goal threat, the 30-year-old is a grafter and won 59 per cent of the 75 duels he contested in April, a figure unheard of for a striker.
Another of Lewandowski's qualities is his knack of being in the right place at the right time. He took more shots (24) in April than any other player in the league, a category he leads over the course of the season too. Small wonder, then, that the forward is on course to be crowned Torschützenkönig once again, an accolade that would be his fourth top scorer gong in the past six seasons. Lewandowski currently has four goals more than Luka Jovic and Paco Alcacer, so if he continues to be as trigger-happy as he has been all term, he will not be easy to catch.
Marco Richter (FC Augsburg)
April was simply off the scale for Marco Richter. Before last month, the FC Augsburg winger was the least successful marksman in the Bundesliga this season, having failed to find the back of the net with 39 shots on goal. But the 21-year-old has had a seismic impact in recent weeks, notching back-to-back braces in wins over Eintracht Frankfurt (3-1) and VfB Stuttgart (6-0) that all but secured Augsburg's survival. He also grabbed an assist for Philipp Max in the Stuttgart win, and only FC Bayern München's Robert Lewandowski (24) had more than his 20 shots on goal in April.
Richter gave incoming coach Martin Schmidt a perfect start to life in the Augsburg dugout with his match-winning performance in Frankfurt. "He told me I should play daring football, the kind I've always played – trying to finish off moves, play dangerous balls, set the tempo," explained the Germany U21 international, who prides himself on being a threat from distance as well as inside the penalty area; two of his four goals in April were scored from long range. And finishing is not Richter's only asset – of all of April's Player of the Month candidates, the Augsburg man was involved in the most challenges (98), of which he won almost 50 per cent.
Max Kruse (March 2019)
Julian Brandt (February 2019)
Leon Goretkza (January 2019)
Marco Reus (December 2018)
Marco Reus (November 2018)
Jadon Sancho (October 2018)
Marco Reus (September 2018)