Kai Havertz is a name familiar to the Gooners following his performances for Chelsea and Germany in recent years, but how well do you know our first summer signing?
His goalscoring exploits in the Bundesliga and Premier League are obvious, as well as his match-winning performances to lift the Champions League and World Club Championship, but there is still so much more to learn about our new number 29.
Here are 13 facts about Kai that you might not know:
The team Kai supported as a boy was his local team Alemannia Aachen, who participated in the Bundesliga in 2006/07 and are known as the “potato beatles” due to their yellow and black kit. Despite only staying in the top flight for a single season, Kai and his family continued to support the team, whose academy he would join in 2009.
“We watched every game,” he said. “Even when they slipped down the leagues, we watched every game every weekend. I’ve always looked forward to the games at the weekend, both as a fan then and now as a player.”
Growing up, some of Kai’s favorite players to watch were Ronaldinho, Andreas Iniesta, Zinedine Zidane and Kaka, as well as a former Liverpool striker – though not Michael Owen or Fernando Torres.
Instead, Erik Meijer shone brightest for Kai, who played 27 games for the Reds between 1999 and 2000 and scored just twice. The one-off Dutch striker ended his playing days up front for Alemannia Aachen as Kai was a regular in the stands.
On the day he became Leverkusen’s youngest ever player, Kai had been having breakfast at his family home in Mariadorf when a phone call from manager Roger Schmidt urged him to rush to Bremen when midfielder Lars Bender was injured.
Kai’s mother took him to Leverkusen where he was picked up by a driver to take him to the match against Werder Bremen. In the 83rd minute, Kai found himself on the pitch and in the record books.
Havertz’s rapid rise to Bayer Leverkusen’s first team saw him break several records. Some have since been replaced, with Florian Wirtz later becoming Leverkusen’s youngest ever player and goalscorer, reaching 50 Bundesliga appearances at a young age.
However, Kai remains the youngest player to reach a century of appearances in the division and his tally of 17 goals in the 2018/19 season remains the most by a teenager in a German top-flight season. In fact, only Jaydon Sancho has scored more goals in the Bundesliga as a teenager than Havertz did before he turned 20.
Studies on football
Due to his rapid rise, Havertz ended up missing games for Leverkusen during his debut campaign in 2016/17 as he had to study for and complete his school exams, taking sports, German, geography and maths. This included Leverkusen’s Champions League round of 16 tie at Atletico Madrid, as well as a league game against Schalke.
Kai admits that juggling football with school was difficult: “I had an exam on Wednesday after an away game on Tuesday night that went to extra time and penalties. I got home relatively late and had an exam the next day. I don’t want to talk about how the exam went!”
Memorable Champions League moments
Aside from that game against Atletico, Kai has impeccable timing when it comes to the Champions League. His debut in the competition came at Wembley Stadium no less, coming on as a substitute in Leverkusen’s 1-0 win over Tottenham Hotspur in November 2016 aged just 17.
It would take him just under four years to score his first goal in Europe’s premier competition, but he chose the perfect moment as it was his strike that beat Manchester City in the 2021 final in Porto to win the silverware for Chelsea.
During his Bundesliga days, Havertz was nicknamed “Alleskonner”, by the German media, meaning one who can do everything. This was due to his ability to do more things with the ball, as well as his tactical flexibility.
This is a translation of the British phrase “a Jack of all trades”, which helps highlight his ability to play in multiple positions on the field.
Sources of the ivories
Speaking of doing everything, Kai has many passions away from football. He started learning to play the piano because he wanted to play an instrument and it has become one of his favorite hobbies.
“I think it’s important to have something calming away from football that allows you to switch off a bit, so I decided to learn an instrument,” he said. “As I have always liked piano compositions, it was not a difficult choice. I enjoyed the first few hours so much that I decided to stick with it. My goal is to eventually master classical and modern music.”
An avid animal lover
Another passion of Kai’s is animals. Having had a German Shepherd, a cat, rabbits, guinea pigs and a horse growing up, he now owns three dogs in London. However, his favorite animals are donkeys – which all started when his parents gave him a stuffed version as a child.
When he was 17, his mother and father also sponsored three rescue donkeys for him to visit. Now he helps save them himself, and his family helps care for them in their own sanctuary near his old childhood home.
Came in number 29
Another of Kai’s passions is video games, and this is where his favorite jersey number evolved from. This is because he and his brother Jan used to create their own characters in the game, and Jan would be number 29.
“When I came to the professional game and Leverkusen asked me which number I wanted, I asked them which numbers were free,” he said. “When they said 29, I said I’d take it because of my brother.”
The top of the pile
Kai’s move to Chelsea in September 2020 saw the west London club splash out £72m for his services, making him the most expensive German player ever.
It smashed the previous record, which also saw Chelsea part with £45m to sign Bundesliga prodigy Timo Werner from RB Leipzig three months earlier.
Make a difference
After regularly giving back to the community with charitable donations and good deeds, Kai set up his own charity back in March. It aims to support people who are limited in their everyday lives due to disability or illness, as well as rescue neglected animals and give them a dignified life.
It also hopes to bring people and animals together to create therapeutic value and support young sports talents with the aim of promoting sports as a way to develop one’s personality.
A dozen in Germany
Kai will be the 12th German player to play for our men’s team. The first was Alberto Mendez, who made 11 appearances in five years after signing in 1997, while Stefan Malz and Moritz Voltz would also feature in the same period.
The list includes four World Cup winners in Mesut Özil, Lukas Podolski, Per Mertesacker and Shkodran Mustafi, plus familiar faces Jens Lehmann, Serge Gnabry and Bernd Leno. Thomas Eisfeld rounds off the list, who featured in two League Cup matches between 2012 and 2013.
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