By most players' standards, scoring the winning goal in a Champions League final in your debut season would be enough to comprehensively quash any doubts over your impact at a club.
But such is the reputation of Kai Havertz, it is fair to say that the best is still to come.
Ear-marked as a golden boy of German football from a young age, the 22-year-old landed in West London last year with a bucketload of hype and a fee to match. Arriving at Cobham as the second most expensive signing in the club’s history, no mean feat in the Roman Abramovich era, Havertz was under immediate pressure to perform.
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Things started relatively well, despite the fact Havertz only had a week to train with the team before Chelsea’s Premier League opener at Brighton. He netted a hat-trick against Barnsley in the Carabao Cup and played regularly under Frank Lampard in the opening months of the season as the Blues enjoyed a relatively promising start.
Cracks in Lampard’s tenure began to appear in December as performances faltered, not long after it had been revealed that Havertz had tested positive for COVID-19. The German fell out of the team and looked a shadow of himself when he returned, with Lampard revealing that the illness had hit Havertz hard.
The physical experience of the illness aside, the implications that it had for Havertz’s more general integration into Chelsea cannot be understated. Moving to a new country at a young age is difficult for any player but add to that the unique circumstances of a pandemic, not to mention the expectation that accompanied Havertz, only serves to make the transition tougher. Not being able to visit family and friends to the same extent, spending long periods alone, would be a tough ask for any young player in a new environment. Throw a managerial change midway through the season into the mix, and Havertz’s early struggles in finding his feet are far easier to reconcile.
And yet, just as he had done in his final season at Bayer Leverkusen, Havertz saved his greatest hits for the second half of the season. Whilst his versatility is one of his greatest assets, the German often looked out of place in Lampard’s predominant 4-3-3 or 4-2-3-1, but deployed as the ‘false nine’ in Thomas Tuchel’s 3-4-3, Havertz begun to show his true class.
Beautifully taken goals against Crystal Palace and Fulham evidenced the sort of composure and clinical finishing he had showcased in the Bundesliga, whilst a superb performance leading the line against Sergio Ramos’ Real Madrid in the Champions League semi-final second leg proved testament to his ability to hold his own and run the hard yards against the best in Europe.
Rounding Ederson in Porto to secure Chelsea’s second Champions League title was a fitting encapsulation of his talent – splitting the Manchester City defence with a smart run before skipping past the keeper and rolling home on the greatest of occasions. So relaxed to the point that he almost comes across as nonchalant despite frequently leading distance covered metrics, Havertz has the mentality to thrive at Stamford Bridge.
A two goal haul and an impressive display against England at Euro 2020 despite Germany’s shortcomings continued Havertz’s excellent summer, and he has continued it straight into pre-season with the Blues. Taking Timo Werner’s pass into his stride before lashing the ball into the roof of the Emirates net, Havertz’s goal against Arsenal earlier today was a sign of things to come.
The Stamford Bridge faithful will welcome him back to Stamford Bridge as a hero, his cult status already forever enshrined by his goal in Porto. This boost to his confidence will only be further bolstered by the trust placed in him by his manager at the back end of last season, as well as tactical familiarity with a system firmly entrenched under Tuchel.
A year under his belt, difficulties overcome, and Europe conquered – beware Kai Havertz this season.
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