Two months ago, we admitted we had never seen Kai Havertz play. Since then – with the Bundesliga pacifying our Premier League withdrawal symptoms – we’ve seen him play at least three times and now consider ourselves experts and Kai converts. We’ve decided that he and Chelsea – reported frontrunners to sign him – are a perfect match.
Frank Lampard and Chelsea director Marina Granovskaia also appear to have been watching the Bundesliga on its return, having already completed a £33million deal for Hakim Ziyech in February but still finding themselves with a rainy-day fund just as the clouds opened. After securing the signing of Liverpool-destined Timo Werner from RB Leipzig for £47.5million, they now head a very long queue of clubs in for Havertz, having – as far as we know – shown very little interest in either player more than a few months ago.
Havertz, at just 21 years old, is about to complete his fourth full season for Bayer Leverkusen in Germany’s top flight. He’s younger than Mason Mount, Tammy Abraham and Fikayo Tomori, who have only just broken into the Chelsea side. Last season he scored 17 goals and provided six assists in the league, and is on course to better those numbers in this campaign. Mount – who most would agree has had an impressive first season for the Blues – has just six goals and five assists. Havertz would be a significant upgrade.
It might seem a tad unfair, with Abraham and Mount doing unexpectedly well and Lampard consistently praising their progress, that the Chelsea boss should now seek to buy far better players to cover the same positions. Those that suggest Werner has been bought to play alongside Abraham, or that Mount will provide any real competition for Havertz – should he sign – are kidding themselves.
The current Chelsea squad are good enough to qualify for the Champions League, but no better. Any reasonable improvement from the young English players will never be enough to close a 34-point gap to Liverpool, or avoid being embarrassed by top European teams, as they were in the Champions League by Bayern Munich in February. The signings of Ziyech, Werner and Havertz will redress that imbalance, and allow Lampard to realistically target major trophies.
Lampard has really proven his worth to Chelsea in lockdown, arguably more so than when games were actually being played. Because while his tactics – particularly in regard to defensive solidity – have left plenty to be desired, he can talk a seriously good game, and being a legend of the club you are managing cannot hurt when attempting persuade others to create their own legacy.
Personal sit-downs or Zoom calls have done the trick with both Ziyech and Werner, and Lampard is reported to have also been in contact with Havertz. He’s a very personable guy, knows the club better than anyone and – as his transfer business so far shows – he has a clear direction in which he wants to move his team forward. It would be very hard to say no.
Targeting German footballers also makes sense. Lampard is essentially quite stereotypically German in his attitude – making the very best of his talent with practice and discipline. Flair was unnecessary, a nuisance; the target was to score goals and win trophies, and he did an awful lot of both.
For a goalscoring midfielder like Havertz, being coached by Lampard would be a dream. Who better to coach him to improve on those late runs into the box? The consistency in hitting the target? Presumably Lampard can even teach him the dark art of deflected goals, of which he was the absolute master.
Some Chelsea fans got a bit over-excited on Thursday as the Bayer Leverkusen playmaker ‘liked’ an ‘announce Havertz’ tweet in response to the confirmed transfer of Werner. And while this is by no means an admission of a desire to move to Chelsea (despite the headlines), the fact that the club have already signed one of his German team-mates is definitely more significant than some would credit.
KAI HAVERTZ JUST LIKED THIS OMGGG pic.twitter.com/eA5wPTa4Q1
— Mod (@CFCMod_) June 18, 2020
Is a 21-year-old more likely to join a foreign club where he already knows someone? Absolutely. Particularly when that player is in exactly the same situation as you, having moved at the same time to play their first season in the Premier League. And when forming a partnership with that player will likely lead to greater opportunities at international level. It’s a big step for a young man, but one made smaller by familiar faces. And just to be sure, it looks like Chelsea have put ‘agent Rudiger’ on the case again…
— Antonio Rüdiger (@ToniRuediger) June 11, 2020
Crucially, like Werner, Havertz will play at Chelsea – he’s better than what they’ve already got. The same assurances of game-time will likely not have been promised by those sent to lure him to the Bernabeu or the Allianz Arena. He won’t have to work to displace a Luka Modric or a Thomas Muller, just give Mount a sympathetic nod as the England international sits on the bench, as Ruben Loftus-Cheek watches on TV from the treatment table following his latest inevitable setback.
And this won’t be his last move; those bigger clubs will come in for him again should his career continue along the same trajectory. But for now, it’s certainly refreshing to see German footballers considering clubs other than Bayern Munich, who have had a monopoly over their countrymen for far too long.
He’s not a Chelsea player yet, but believe the hype because this makes sense and this is going to happen. Probably.
Will Ford is on Twitter