Bayer Leverkusen midfielder Kai Havertz has set himself the target of playing for Germany at UEFA 2020.
Havertz has made waves in his short time on the Leverkusen books, debuting in the Bundesliga at 17, reaching 50 top-flight appearances at 18 and claiming the Fritz Walter gold medal as Germany's best player in his age group at 19 - but a first senior international call-up is still on the to-do list.
"I’m 19," said Havertz, the current Germany U19s captain. "I’m still young and need to put the work in. I’ve one-and-a-half good Bundesliga seasons behind me, so I should be aiming for a first Germany cap in the not-too-distant future. I'll be 21 at Euro 2020 - I think that's a reasonable amibition to have and I'll do everything to play my way into contention. I’m pretty relaxed about it, but it’s at the back of my mind and it’s something I want after seeing some of my friends play at the World Cup."
Chief among Havertz’s World Cup-going pals was Leverkusen’s Julian Brandt. The 22-year-old has 19 senior international caps, having played for Germany at the 2016 Summer Olympics, won the 2017 FIFA Confederations Cup and made three substitute appearances at Russia 2018. A friend first and a team-mate second, he is also something of a role model for Bayer’s teenage star.
"It’s really impressive to see what he’s already achieved at his age and what impact he’s had on games [despite limited game time for the national team]," Havertz said of Brandt. "I can take my cue from him, even though I see him as a friend and not a role model (laughs). Maybe he’s opened doors for other young players to break into the national team."
Watch: Kai Havertz and Julian Brandt dismantled Gladbach last season
Havertz could well be first through the door, not least after a praiseworthy first full season of Bundesliga football. Building on his four goals and six assists in 24 appearances in 2016/17, the Aachen talent turned out 30 times in Germany’s top division last season, registering three goals and nine assists as Bayer finished fifth in the final standings. He also made history as the youngest player to reach 50 Bundesliga games, aged 18 years and 307 days. Some achievement for a player who, until recently, was still juggling football with high school.
"It wasn’t always easy," admitted Havertz, who once missed a UEFA Champions League knockout game against Spain’s Atletico Madrid because of exams. "There was a time we were playing in the DFB Cup against Lotte - it went to extra-time and then I was up first thing for English classes. Other times I’d be training in the morning and then going to school for one-on-one classes in the afternoon. It had its challenges, but I passed my exams (laughs). I think it did me good. I was brought up with my feet on the ground, anyway. I think I’m a normal guy."