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Jason

29. Kai Havertz

Started by Jason,

337 posts in this topic
1 hour ago, Special Juan said:

His awareness is way off, but that will come I hope.

His tackling is good and his to work in tight areas is good. I want to see him get on the ball this half and another goal.

Aware this was before half time but just wanted to point out what some people might get confused about regarding his awareness. He has a somewhat lax, languid style of play. His off the ball work & movement (offensively speaking) is actually one of the best bits of his game. 

Once he gets used to the pace of the Premier, he's going to be one special player for us. Such a unique player. 

 

Miguelito likes this

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1 hour ago, The Skipper said:

Aware this was before half time but just wanted to point out what some people might get confused about regarding his awareness. He has a somewhat lax, languid style of play. His off the ball work & movement (offensively speaking) is actually one of the best bits of his game. 

Once he gets used to the pace of the Premier, he's going to be one special player for us. Such a unique player. 

 

Indeed. He is very good at finding space and timing his runs. The problem on here is that it is quite clear that a lot of people must've been only looking at stats, Twitter and Youtube clips of him prior to signing as what we have seen isn't really a surprise. 

Further, today he was much better as he was playing in the position that I have said all along he would/should play for us i.e. No.8/No.10. Yes, he did play No.11/No.9 last season but if anyone had actually watched him, they would've spotted that he wouldn't get away with playing those positions in the PL due to his playing style. 

Further he is has been a slow starter in pretty much every season he has started. For me, I am not expecting him to be fully up and running until November at the earliest and even then, he should be given this season to acclimatise. 

The Skipper and Supermonkey92 like this

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Everything he does on the ball is so calm and effortless and he looked very composed in front of goal. 

I think he'll add a clinical nature to our game this season which was distinctly lacking over large stretches last year.

 

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1 hour ago, NikkiCFC said:

Watching this Bayern side make me realise how lucky we are to have him. 

Sane buy and Alcantara sale would cover his transfer. 

Bayern will regret this. 

Can't believe he is here. 

yes, and Bayern has no true AMF at all (unless you count Thomas Müller, who is not really an AMF, he is a classic SS)

also only 3 wingers on the squad (Sane and Coman at LW, Gnabry at RW)

basically no backup to Lewa other than a 19yo Zirkzee

and if Alaba leaves, they really are screwed with depth at CB, fullback, and DMF, due to the backups having to vacate other starting positions to play

surely they buy some players this window

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27 minutes ago, Vesper said:

yes, and Bayern has no true AMF at all (unless you count Thomas Müller, who is not really an AMF, he is a classic SS)

also only 3 wingers on the squad (Sane and Coman at LW, Gnabry at RW)

basically no backup to Lewa other than a 19yo Zirkzee

and if Alaba leaves, they really are screwed with depth at CB, fullback, and DMF, due to the backups having to vacate other starting positions to play

surely they buy some players this window

The only thing stopping them to win it all again is injuries. Even most Bubdesliga clubs have better depth than they have. It’s crazy how they can operate like this but when most opponents throw the towel early they are not gonna get many injuries

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The people and the pitches that shaped Kai Havertz

https://theathletic.com/2085232/2020/09/24/kai-havertz-hat-trick-chelsea-mariadorf/

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Shivering slightly with a football in his hand as he navigated the easiest of pitchside interviews at Stamford Bridge, a smiling Kai Havertz soaked up the latest in a series of new experiences since moving from Bayer Leverkusen to Chelsea — and by far the most enjoyable to date. The first hat-trick of his senior professional career was always going to be a moment to savour, but frustrating outings against Brighton & Hove Albion and Liverpool only amplified the satisfaction. “I am delighted with Kai, it was everything I wanted the night to be with him,” Frank Lampard said afterwards.

A lack of pre-season preparation dulled his impact on arrival, but Havertz, 21, showed more than enough flashes in his preferred No 10 role against an admittedly generous Barnsley defence in the Carabao Cup to underline what he can offer his new team. Aside from the clinical finishing and the early signs of a natural understanding with Tammy Abraham, there were the effortless movements into pockets of space, the sharp passes into open team-mates and the ruthless pressing that all combined to establish him as one of Europe’s most coveted talents at Leverkusen.

Those qualities will also have been easily recognisable to many in the place where Havertz’s football journey began — a place where his every new achievement is worn as a badge of pride by the community that formed him.


In the peaceful and picturesque west German village of Mariadorf, around eight miles to the north of Aachen, the pitch that provided the first stage for Havertz to showcase his spectacular talent is on its last legs.

Bumpy and unkempt, it was supposed to have been ripped up in August and replaced with a state-of-the-art synthetic surface at a cost of €1.3 million, funded by the local authority. That refurbishment has been postponed until 2021 and so Stefan Zander, Alemannia Mariadorf’s enthusiastic new youth coordinator, is watching the club’s under-nines scamper around on the battered grass, joyfully undeterred by the unpredictable bobble of the ball.

“We hope we will get the new field in February and we hope many more kids will come,” he tells The Athletic. “Maybe we will get the new Kai…”

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It’s Saturday and all of Alemannia Mariadorf’s youth teams are in action, from the under-six side that Havertz once joined as a prodigious four-year-old to the under-19s. The older teams play on the red ash pitch separated from the grass field by a thin line of trees, where every contact with the ball kicks up a plume of dust. The sounds generated by the younger age-group matches — high-pitched shouts, referee whistles, the light thuds of boot on ball — drift out onto the surrounding streets.

The football club serves as one of Mariadorf’s main community hubs, with an impressive number of committed locals turning out to watch the various teams — all predominantly consisting of boys born and raised in the area — alongside friends and family members of the players. Zander says it’s part of the reason he was drawn to the club, and it’s also why, 17 years ago, excitement about the young Havertz spread so quickly.

“He used to play in teams where the others were two, three, four years older and he was still the best of them,” says Paul Breuer, a former Alemannia Mariadorf player and member of the club’s veterans’ board. “His best qualities were his technique and his drive to fight for every ball. He was a small player but he was not afraid, even if they were much bigger than he was. It was unbelievable.”

Havertz’s grandfather, Richard Weidenhaupt-Pelzer, was Alemannia Mariadorf president at the time, and club rules were bent to allow the exceptional four-year-old to play with the under-six side. One of his team-mates and earliest friends was Andre Hochmuth, who now plays for the men’s first team. “He was always two years younger than the others but you couldn’t see it on the pitch,” he says. “He was always the best and he always had the power to do whatever he wanted.

“After a match, we would go back to his house and continue to play in the garden. It was only one or two minutes away and they had a big garden. We played one versus one or we would try to hit the gnomes. He won every time.”


The house that Havertz called home during his Alemannia Mariadorf days is still lived in by his parents, Ralf and Anne. It stands less than 500 metres (550 yards) from the clubhouse on a quiet residential street where traffic is infrequent and all of the properties are understated in style but generous in size. There are no signs bearing the family name outside, and nothing to indicate that the house belongs to the family of a millionaire footballer.

That, by all accounts, is very much by design. Havertz’s parents — Ralf a retired policeman, Anne a lawyer — are private people who have never courted media attention, and the explanation offered for their continued presence in Mariadorf is that it allows them to go about their daily business as normally as possible. They did not raise Kai, his brother Jan or sister Lea, to seek out the kind of attention that his football stardom has made inevitable.

At his unveiling press conference as a Chelsea player, Havertz was asked about his interests outside football, chiefly his passion for playing the piano and his love of donkeys. During his childhood, he and his family rescued one from being sent to a slaughterhouse, stoking his desire to adopt animal protection as a personal cause. “Of course, football is one of the most important things in my life as well but to be honest, there are very many more important things in life than football, and I’m trying to do my best to help as much as I can,” he said.

Those who knew the young Havertz are in no doubt that his parents deserve credit for helping to shape his rounded worldview. “His mother and father were behind him all the way, but the main thing was always school,” Hochmuth says.

“They always pushed him to perform there first, then football second. I remember one time he had to skip a game because of homework — his parents just told him ‘school is first’.”

“You always have players who people say will be one of the best in the world, and all of a sudden they disappear because they have other interests, girls etc,” Breuer says. “But Kai is a clever guy. His results at school were very good. His family gave him this atmosphere.”

Havertz left Alemannia Mariadorf at the age of 10 to join Alemannia Aachen and test himself at the higher levels of German youth football, and his family moved into the city to make things easier. “Everybody said he was good when he went to Aachen, but many players from here go to Aachen,” says Dirk Knops, who was involved with Alemannia Mariadorf for 10 years and still regularly watches the youth and men’s teams.

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“Until two years ago, we had a cooperation with Aachen: good players from here went there, and players who had no chance there come to us. It was normal. But then he goes to (Bayer) Leverkusen and you see his path: youth national player at under-13, under-14, under-15, and then you can see he’s better than the others.”

Leverkusen had first made contact with the Havertz family when Kai was eight and finally convinced them to send their son to the club’s renowned Kurtekotten academy — one hour’s drive from Aachen — three years later. “It wasn’t easy because for the first years he commuted every day,” Breuer says. “His father stopped working as a policeman and took him in the car.”

Every step in Havertz’s football journey has taken him further away from Mariadorf and his family are no longer involved with the club. Jan, who also made his way through the Alemannia Mariadorf youth teams, now works for the agency that represents his brother and Weidenhaupt-Pelzer passed away 15 years ago. But while Ralf and Anne are not on the sidelines, connections remain close.

“In a club like Mariadorf, you’re a family,” Breuer says. “Everyone knows everyone. We meet once a year and invite all the veterans of the club. Last year my mother — who still lives at 92 — was sitting next to Kai’s grandmother, Maria, talking about Kai. Maria was showing us WhatsApp messages from him asking how she was and saying he hopes all is well at Alemannia Mariadorf. I think it’s a good relationship.”

Whenever he returns to Mariadorf, Havertz is greeted by friendly faces. “I saw him three weeks ago,” Hochmuth says. “We had training and Kai waved to me as I passed him in the car. He recognised me even though I have a beard now!”

“I saw him at the petrol station two or three years ago,” Knops says. “We spoke for about three or four minutes, ‘Hello, how are you?’ and so on. About half a year before that, I saw him in the supermarket — he’s a very tall man now so his head was poking over the aisle.”


Alemannia Mariadorf’s clubhouse is not dominated by pictures of Havertz or mementoes relating to his time there. This is a club with a proud 114-year history of its own in the lower leagues of the German football pyramid, as well as a broader pedigree when it comes to producing Bundesliga talent. Hans-Peter Lehnhoff enjoyed spells at Koln, Antwerp and Leverkusen in a 16-year professional career in the 1980s and 1990s, while Moroccan-born Rachid Azzouzi played for Duisburg, Koln and Greuther Furth. A picture of the pair hangs prominently in the atrium.

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Below that image, in a glass cabinet half-obscured by a staircase leading to the bar, lies a carefully folded Leverkusen shirt bearing Havertz’s name, number and signature, next to a small signed squad picture. Down a corridor to the left of the bar is a small office with two desks and walls covered in pictures relating to the youth teams. Front and centre are two certificates referring to the Fritz Walter Medal, an award given to the best German players of their age group: Havertz won silver at Under-17 level in 2016 and claimed the Under-19 gold two years later.

Knops was there when Havertz received the first award in Monchengladbach. “We found his first Alemannia Mariadorf shirt with No 7 (on the back) and I gave it to him,” he says with a smile.

“We are trying (to use Kai’s story as inspiration), but it’s negative as well as positive,” Zander says. “If you use it too much, all of the kids are thinking they can be Kai Havertz.”

In any case, the clubhouse itself stands as a monument to Havertz’s rise to the status of Germany’s golden boy; the milestones he passed in those teenage years, including those Fritz Walter Medals, led to €16,000 worth of payments from the German Football Association (DFB) to each of the clubs who played a role in his training and development. That sum might be paltry to Leverkusen and even perhaps to Alemannia Aachen, but not to Alemannia Mariadorf. “We refurbished our clubhouse with this money,” Breuer says.

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Alemannia Mariadorf had been operating in reduced financial circumstances before the COVID-19 pandemic. “Kai’s grandfather used to be the chairman of the board of a German company based in Hamburg called Edeka, which is like Aldi or Lidl (a budget supermarket),” Breuer explains. “He made a lot of money with that, and at the time (he was president) we were playing one division higher and we paid a lot of money. Players from all across the area came to play for Alemannia Mariadorf because we paid.

“The players now have normal jobs, in administration, in other factories and so on. We only pay them a small fee and the money we get is based on donations from different people.”

There was never going to be a further windfall for Alemannia Mariadorf from the initial £62 million deal that took Havertz from Leverkusen to Chelsea; DFB rules stipulate that €16,000 is the most that any former club can receive in terms of training and development bonuses. “It’s enough for a little club like us,” Breuer adds. “We’re happy with it.”


The clubhouse bar is where Alemannia Mariadorf’s first team, along with current president Guido Lenz, Breuer and several other club veterans, gather on Sunday afternoon to watch Chelsea’s big Premier League match against Liverpool. The mood is unexpectedly sombre. Their team has just been beaten 6-1 in the neighbouring village of Hehlrath by Sportfreunde Duren, their third defeat in three games to start the new season in a new league, the Landesliga Staffel 2.

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The notion that this might not be a satisfying day for anyone from Mariadorf had already been established by the pre-match soundtrack in Hehlrath: Anfield anthem You’ll Never Walk Alone played not once but twice over the PA system as the teams went through their stretches.

Not all eyes in the clubhouse are focused on the giant projector screen as the teams walk out at Stamford Bridge, and Frank Lampard’s surprise deployment of Havertz as a false nine goes relatively unremarked upon. Lenz leaves his seat to conduct a post-match inquest with Alemannia Mariadorf’s young Italian coach, Gabriele Di Benedetto. “Guido is not allowed to sit here because we lost three matches in a row,” Breuer jokes.

Attention wanes further when the cautious nature of Chelsea’s game plan and the ease of Liverpool’s possession dominance becomes clear, though eyes and ears perk up whenever Havertz or his countryman Timo Werner manage to get themselves on the ball with an opportunity to counter-attack.

Andreas Christensen’s VAR-assisted red card for hauling down Sadio Mane and Lampard’s subsequent decision to take off Havertz at half-time is the cue for most to head home. Hochmuth reacts with shock at the substitution of his childhood friend but for many others, the match holds no more interest and there are disappointments closer to home to ponder. By the time Werner wins a penalty that Alisson saves from Jorginho in the 75th minute, Lenz, Breuer and Hochmuth are among a handful still in the clubhouse.

When the dust settles, Alemannia Mariadorf’s future looks brighter. They will get their new pitch soon and even if the current season ends in a swift relegation for the men’s seniors, the one that follows should at least yield fewer miserable days like this one.

There is similar confidence that happier times lie ahead for Havertz. “I always said that if someone was going to get to this level, it would be Kai,” Hochmuth says. “He’s got everything in his blood and everybody knew he would reach his goal. You could see he had the drive. He will succeed at Chelsea, 100 per cent.”

Mariadorf’s golden boy is taking the first thrilling steps towards proving them right once again.

1chelsea, Milan and Atomiswave like this

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Maybe he should dropped a bit in the second half. It looked like he was waiting in the box with Tammy, Olie...

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39 minutes ago, DoubleO said:

Despite the result, I really enjoyed his movement and action on the field today. By far the best PL game from him in a Chelsea shirt, and it is obvious that the 10-position suits him the best. 

I agree. When you look at some of our best chances in the first half you will see that they originated with good passes from Havertz. 

It is a relief to see that he does have the ability to play those through-balls, we have been missing it a lot since Fabregas stopped being a starter. 
It is still early in his Chelsea days, but he seems destined to become our playmaker. 

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