Football Features

Where next if Bayer Leverkusen’s record-breaking talisman Kai Havertz “takes the next step”?

By Ben Green

Kai Havertz next club: Where next for Bayer Leverkusen midfielder?

Published: 15:00, 6 July 2020

Bayer Leverkusen wunderkind Kai Havertz has enjoyed a stratospheric rise to prominence since making his debut in 2016, naturally alerting some of Europe’s biggest clubs in the process.

The highly sought-after German has been making rapid progress during his formative years, but truly enhanced his burgeoning reputation last campaign after bagging 20 goals across all competitions, as well as notching six assists.

It was a truly remarkable season for the precocious playmaker, who has now followed in the fabled footsteps of some of Die Werkself’s great midfield forerunners, including Michael Ballack, Toni Kroos and Arturo Vidal.

And this season has yielded a similar return in front of goal, leading to further question marks over his future at the BayArena, with the talented midfielder reportedly on the radar for some of the continent’s biggest clubs.

Bayern Munich were on the phone last summer, as confirmed by Leverkusen sporting director Rudi Voller, who told Sky Deutschland: “I spoke directly and completely friendly with [Bayern chairman Karl-Heinz] Rummenigge. [He] totally understood that we do not [want to sell].”

The 1990 World Cup winner went on to add that “Bayern were not the only club that asked us about Havertz”, but did reveal Leverkusen would not sell to a Bundesliga rival, while the 21-year-old himself stated: “I really don’t know whether Bayern is the next and right step for me.”

And so, it seems the Bundesliga champions may be totally out of the question for Havertz, who recently revealed that he wants to “take the next step” in his career.

“I’m ready to take a big step, and I like challenges. For me, this also includes abroad,” he told Sport Bild.

“Leverkusen are a great club, I feel good. I have always said that. But of course I want to take the next step in my career at some point. That’s my ambition.”

But where could that next step be?

Dream: Barcelona

Barcelona love a classic No. 10, with their football lineage tracing back to the likes of Johan Cruyff, Gheorghe Hagi, Diego Maradona and Michael Laudrup.

Philippe Coutinho was supposed to be the next heir to that majestic throne, but for one reason or another, things just haven’t worked out for the diminutive Brazilian in Catalonia, and he ultimately left for Bayern Munich on loan last summer.

That has left a £142m void in Quique Setien’s side, and with no guarantees on Coutinho’s Barca future post-Bayern, there could be an opening further forward for a player of Havertz’s quality.

His versatility would allow him to thrive where Coutinho was stifled in an unnatural wide role, should Setien opt to deploy him on the flanks that is, while his goalscoring prowess could improve even further in a side packed with world-class creators.

Havertz has played 10 Bundesliga matches in a wide role this season, with his performances from the flanks returning three goals, so a move to the wings certainly wouldn’t jeopardise his output in front of goal. With Miralem Pjanic also joining this summer, there could be a complete revamp to the Barca system. The prospect of a central midfield consisting of Pjanic, Frenkie de Jong and Havertz would leave Barca purists weak at the knees.

And the Catalan club could hold the edge here in this tug-of-war contest as Havertz has previously outlined his admiration for the Blaugrana, detailing his love for their famous 2006 Champions League-winning side, which boasted the likes of Ronaldinho and Samuel Eto’o in their pomp.

In an interview with Spox, he said: “The club I was particularly keen on at that time was FC Barcelona, which was my first big favourite club, my room was full of Barca posters.”

This would be the ultimate boyhood dream made reality should the Blaugrana pull out all the stops.

Realistic: Chelsea

The Havertz transfer saga has taken many twists and turns over the past few years, but Chelsea have now emerged as frontrunners to wrap up a deal for the Germany international, particularly after Bayer Leverkusen finished fifth in the Bundesliga and missed out on Champions League football for next season.

Frank Lampard has made no secrets about his desire to bolster Chelsea’s ranks following the club’s transfer embargo and inactivity during the January window. Already the Blues have signed creative maestro Hakim Ziyech and prolific marksman Timo Werner. With ambitions to compete with Liverpool and Manchester City, Lampard could now redirect his attention to the BayArena.

In order to fund the transfer Lampard would need to generate some cash and create space in his squad, which could prompt a fire-sale and exodus of outcasts at Stamford Bridge, including the likes of Michy Batshuayi and Tiemoue Bakayoko.

And that is exactly the avenue Lampard has been exploring according to Express Sport, who believe the Blues could be open to the departures of at least six players, with Marcos Alonso, Batshuayi, Bakayoko, Kenedy and Danny Drinkwater all in the firing line.

Should Lampard seek this resolution then Chelsea would have a squad worthy of competing for the title, and even in the latter stages of Europe. For Havertz, he would be joining a squad brimming with the kind of attacking quality he needs to shine, while there are few better mentors to play under than someone of Lampard’s pedigree.

There are indeed parallels between the current Chelsea boss and their latest transfer target. Lampard was the textbook definition of a goalscoring midfielder during his playing days, and Havertz boasts a similar reputation now. A link-up between the duo could see the emergence of Lampard 2.0 in west London.

Given the acceleration of Mason Mount this season — and last term at Derby — it would seem Lampard has the paternalistic instinct and the tactical knowhow to develop youthful stars and improve their performances. Havertz would be wise to consider this when deciding his future. 

Wildcard: Borussia Dortmund

Borussia Dortmund attempted to stage a coup in the Bundesliga, but once again fell short as Bayern Munich conformed to stereotype and cantered to another title.

For those who had aspirations of usurping the Bavarian juggernaut, it is now back to square one, and it is already looking like a tall order for next season with Bayern confirming deals for Leroy Sane, teenage sensation Tanguy Kouassi and the new Manuel Neuer in Alexander Nubel.

Lucien Favre, therefore, needs fresh impetus, and badly. Achraf Hakimi has already joined Inter Milan, though BVB alleviated his departure with the acquisition of Thomas Meunier, while Marco Reus continues to struggle with persistent injury troubles.

Favre is not exactly short on attacking quality, with the Swiss coach boasting the likes of Jadon Sancho, Thorgan Hazard, Julian Brandt and Erling Braut Haaland among their frontline talents, but a quick gander at Bayern’s ranks suggests BVB need to up the ante if they are to seriously challenge on the domestic front.

In Brandt, Dortmund already have one player to have made the switch from Bayer Leverkusen to North Rhine-Westphalia, and captain Reus insisted earlier this season that he will try everything to convince Havertz to follow him.

“I will do everything I can to get him to Dortmund,” he said last September.

“I don’t know how much he would cost or if Dortmund could afford him.

“But I will do my best. Just like I did with Julian [Brandt]. In Julian, I have an ally who still knows him very well. So let’s wait and see.”

Compared to the rest of the Dortmund squad this season, only Sancho (69) created more chances in the Bundesliga than Havertz’s 59 – though his six assists pales in comparison to Sancho’s mighty 16.

However, that would not detract any potential interest from Dortmund, as Havertz’s ability to play across the midfield would enable Favre to switch his attackers around mid-game, keeping things fresh as they look to conquer Germany.

Squawka suggests: Man City

Despite Pep Guardiola being able to call upon some of world football’s finest players among his Manchester City squad, the Catalonian is perpetually striving for perfection and will no doubt have kept an attentive eye on Havertz’s progress in a league he knows very well.

Reports suggest Man City are just one of several European clubs currently courting the coveted tyro. And with David Silva now in his final season at the Etihad, Guardiola will need to find a suitable successor to his magnificent “Merlin”.

Many have earmarked Phil Foden to step up to the plate once Silva departs the North West, but if European glory eludes Guardiola once again this season, would he risk handing such an important berth to the teenager? Recent history suggests otherwise.

Since relocating to Manchester, Guardiola has not been shy to flex some serious financial muscle during the off-season and winter windows, and he may be tempted to channel that inner chequebook approach again this summer should an opportunity to sign Havertz manifest.

No midfielder managed more touches in the opposition box in the Bundesliga this season than Havertz (140), while he was also the second-highest scorer (12) behind Sancho (17) – that kind of dynamism, potency and attacking panache would certainly go a long way to remedying Silva’s eventual absence.