Bayer Leverkusen had just relinquished a two-goal lead to fall 3-2 behind to Wolfsburg as GOALMANIA really kicked in during the final fixture of Matchday 26. A seven-minute total transformation in fortunes could have sent Leverkusen's heads dropping, but that did not affect the youngest head on the field.
Kai Havertz underscored his glowing – and growing – reputation with a stunning strike out of nothing. The fans who had chosen to head for the exits following Mario Gomez's third goal were halted in their paths by a lightning strike; a bolt from the blue.
At 17, Havertz became Leverkusen's youngest ever goalscorer on Sunday with a left-foot volley the kind of which Leverkusen fans were last regaled with when a certain Michael Ballack was bossing their midfield. Havertz is the youngest GOALMANIA marksman and you get the feeling it was the first of many for the latest talent to emerge from the Bayer football factory.
Havertz was just 17 years and 126 days old when he became Leverkusen's youngest ever Bundesliga debutant last October, only months after former coach Roger Schmidt had been curious for a closer look at the young midfielder by summoning him for training with the first team.
Since then, Havertz has missed just three Bundesliga games. On two of those occasions, he was lent back to the under-19s, which he had effectively bypassed on his way to first-team fame, and while with them, he also shone on the international stage in the UEFA Youth League, where he certainly made an impact.
"I forget the name right now, but there's a Bayer Leverkusen player who has played in the first team and then wasn't able to play against Atleti [in the Champions League last 16]," said Real Madrid's assistant coach Alberto Garrido to UEFA.com when asked if any one player had caught his eye in particular. "Yes – it's Kai Havertz – I think he's a player who has really developed throughout the competition."
Few will be forgetting his name in future, however, with Havertz set to become a household name having already penned plenty of headlines in just a few months, not least when he put his education ahead of that aforementioned Champions League clash.
"He's got some exams which can't be moved," said Leverkusen coach Tayfun Korkut, explaining Havertz's absence from the trip to Madrid, where Die Werkself's elimination from Europe's elite club competition was sealed.
That day, Havertz sat a four-hour geography exam. He is set to gain a lot more practical geography knowledge in the months and years to come, though, as he can expect to travel the world for club and country.
"He's another outstanding great talent we have developed," enthused Leverkusen's sporting director Rudi Völler. "His ability to stroke the ball, to do the simple things in full serenity is outstanding. I call it sensational, but of course he's just starting. If his development continues at this pace then he will a brilliant addition to our squad."
He has already proven to be an ace in the Leverkusen pack in a debut campaign in which he has moved from the central midfield role he held for Leverkusen's youth teams to a freer role on the wing, where his performances have certainly not been clipped.
In fact, he has gained flight, impressing all those around him. "I've never seen such a complete player at the age of 17," admitted Leverkusen captain Lars Bender. He has played alongside the likes of Ballack and Mesut Özil – another player Havertz has been compared with – and can therefore be trusted with his assessment of the latest outstanding talent to make an impression on the Bundesliga stage.
By Ben Gladwell