Kai Havertz is going from strength to strength at Chelsea
It was a moment which left Kai Havertz’s interviewer stunned, and those who know him even more dumbfounded.
Asked shortly after the end of the Champions League final whether his match-winning goal had justified his £62million fee, Havertz said: “To be honest, I couldn’t give a f— because we just won the f—— Champions League!”
It is a quote that will live with Havertz, certainly in England, and yet it belies the quiet, polite and sometimes shy character who once famously missed a Champions League game with Bayer Leverkusen to prepare for his school exams.
The goal in Porto, in front of Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich who took a personal interest in his signing last summer, proved to be the start of what has been an excellent month for Havertz.
At 22 years and eight days, Havertz became the youngest goalscorer for Germany in European Championships history when he netted in the victory over Portugal and he was on target again in the draw with Hungary that set up Tuesday night’s last 16 tie against England at Wembley. There he will be reacquainted with Kyle Walker and John Stones, whose last encounter with Havertz saw him shatter their dream of a first Champions League trophy with Manchester City.
Havertz was the arch-diplomat when discussing the England match at Germany’s Bavarian training camp on Sunday. “For me and the entire team it will be a special game,” said Havertz. “It would be wrong to underestimate Germany. We know England well. They have some of the world’s best players and, yes, they also have room for improvement.
“But England have not yet conceded a goal in the tournament and they have so many individual qualities. You have to respect them, but we are also a team with good players.”
Havertz scoring for Germany against Portugal
Not helped by the fact his arrival at the start of last September meant he did not have a pre-season with Chelsea, Havertz took some time to settle into English football and was shocked by the speed and intensity of games.
But he will feel comfortable in London with the German national team, having set up home with his girlfriend Sophia Weber in Wimbledon. The couple took some time to find the right house with a garden before getting a golden retriever puppy named Baloo.
Rather than being spotted entering trendy central London restaurants or bars, Havertz and his girlfriend are more likely to be seen taking Baloo on long walks around Wimbledon Common, Richmond Park and Bushy Park.
Animals have always played an important role in the life of Havertz, having grown up in the picturesque village of Mariadorf near the German spa city of Aachen, which is close to the borders of Belgium and Holland.
In Mariadorf, he kept a German shepherd, a cat, rabbits, guinea pigs and a horse in the garden. His parents, Ralf and Anne, still live in the area and help to look after the collection of donkeys he has rescued – a passion ever since he was given a toy donkey for his ninth birthday.
Havertz after scoring the winner in the Champions League final
Chelsea had started seriously scouting Havertz in 2018 during his first stand-out season for Leverkusen, which he finished with 20 goals in all competitions, and the German football federation last summer aided his move by allowing him to leave the squad and miss a game against Switzerland to avoid coronavirus quarantine restrictions and complete his transfer.
Despite his father’s fear of flying, Havertz’s family joined him in London as he completed his big move. Their pride and excitement was said to be evident and they will no doubt be relishing the role he is currently playing for his country at a major tournament
The combination of his nationality, goalscoring ability and height – plus the club he plays for – have resulted in some comparisons to Michael Ballack, but those who have worked with both players at Chelsea do not see a great likeness.
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Havertz does not possess Ballack’s power and does not yet have a defined position. He finished the season as a false nine for Chelsea, from where he scored his Champions League-winning goal, and has been used as one of two number 10s for Germany at the Euros.
German legend Lothar Matthaus instead sees similarities between Zinedine Zidane and Havertz, who he believes will continue to have a big future for the national team under incoming coach Hansi Flick.
“Kai Havertz reminds me, from the movement, to be a bit like Zidane,” said Matthaus. “He can score, he can pass, he is an elegant player and a fast player. I have seen what he did the last four years in [Bayer] Leverkusen and what he has done in Chelsea, and he has the quality to be one of the best players in the world in the future.
“Hansi Flick is a fan of Kai, he is a type Hansi likes very much, someone who is not only running for the team and fighting but can make the difference with a pass, with movement. We like him very much in Germany.”