Kai Havertz is a name well-known to 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 the Premier League are obvious, as well as his matchwinning 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 side Alemannia Aachen, who competed in the Bundesliga in 2006/07 and are known as the "potato beatles" due to their yellow and black kit. Despite them 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 always looked forward to the games at the weekend, both as a fan back then and now as a player.”
Growing up, some of Kai’s favourite players to watch were Ronaldinho, Andreas Iniesta, Zinedine Zidane and Kaka, as well as a former Liverpool striker - albeit not Michael Owen or Fernando Torres.
Instead, Erik Meijer shone brightest for Kai, who made 27 appearances for the Reds between 1999 and 2000 and scored just twice. The one-time capped Dutch striker ended his playing days up front for Alemannia Aachen when Kai was a regular in the stands.
On the day he became Leverkusen’s youngest-ever player, Kai had been eating breakfast at his family home in Mariadorf when a phonecall from manager Roger Schmidt urged him to quickly head to Bremen as midfielder Lars Bender was injured.
Kai’s mum whisked him to Leverkusen where he was picked up by a chauffeur to take him to the game against Werder Bremen. In the 83rd minute, Kai found himself on the field, and in the record books.
Havertz’s rapid ascension to the Bayer Leverkusen first team saw him break numerous records. Some have since been superseded, with Florian Wirtz later becoming Leverkusen’s youngest player and goalscorer, and reaching 50 Bundesliga games at a younger age.
However, Kai remains the youngest player to reach a century of appearances in the division, and his tally of 17 goals during the 2018/19 season is still 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 over soccer
Due to his rapid rise, Havertz ended up missing matches for Leverkusen during his debut campaign in 2016/17 as he had to study for and complete his school exams, where he took sport, German, geography and maths. This included Leverkusen's Champions League round of 16 tie at Atletico Madrid, as well as a league match against Schalke.
Kai admits juggling football with school was tough: “I had an exam on Wednesday after an away game on the Tuesday evening that went to extra-time and penalties. I got home relatively late and had to do an exam the next day. I don't want to talk about how the exam went!"
Memorable Champions League moments
Except 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 when he came 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 tournament but he picked the perfect moment as it was his strike that beat Manchester City in the 2021 final in Porto to clinch the silverware for Chelsea.
During his Bundesliga days, Havertz was given the nickname "Alleskonner", by the German media meaning someone who can do anything. This was due to his ability to do multiple 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 to highlight his ability to play in multiple positions on the pitch.
Tickling the ivories
Speaking of doing everything, Kai has many passions away from football. He started to learn how to play the piano as he wanted to play an instrument, and it has become one of his favourite 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've always liked piano compositions, it wasn't a difficult choice. I enjoyed the first few hours so much, I decided to stick with it. My objective is to master classical and modern music eventually.”
An avid animal lover
Another passion of Kai’s is animals. After having a German shepherd, a cat, rabbits, guinea pigs and a horse while he was growing up, he now owns three dogs in London. However, his favourite animals are donkeys - which all started when his parents gifted him a stuffed version as a child.
When he was 17, his mum and dad also sponsored three rescue donkeys for him, which he would visit. Now he helps to rescue them himself, with his family helping to care for them at their own sanctuary near his old childhood home.
Come in number 29
Another of Kai’s passions is video gaming, and it is from this that his favourite shirt number developed. 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 what number I wanted to have, I asked them which numbers were free,” he said. “When they said 29, I said I’d take it because of my brother.”
Top of the pile
Kai’s move to Chelsea in September 2020 saw the west London club splash out a reported £72 million for his services, which means he is the most expensive German player of all-time.
That smashed the previous record, which also saw Chelsea parting with £45 million to take fellow Bundesliga prodigy Timo Werner from RB Leipzig three months earlier.
Making a difference
Hi guys! ✌
A real passion project of mine is finally coming to life.
The Kai Havertz charity. @KHStiftung
Our mission: Helping. Our goal: Progress. For humans and animals. It‘s now live, so check us out! We‘re only getting started https://t.co/sH9Wlzv3z8 pic.twitter.com/0izc8GxNMi
Hi guys! ✌
Having regularly given back to the community with charitable donations and good deeds, back in March Kai set up his own charity. It aims to support people who are restricted in their everyday lives due to disability or illness, as well as rescue neglected animals and give them a dignified life.
It is also hoping to bring people and animals together to create therapeutic value, and support young sporting talents with the goal of conveying sport as a way to develop one's personality.
A Deutschland dozen
Kai will be the 12th German player to play for our men’s first-team. The first was Alberto Mendez who featured 11 times in five years after signing in 1997, while Stefan Malz and Moritz Voltz would also appear during the same period.
The list includes four World Cup winners in Mesut Ozil, Lukas Podolski, Per Mertesacker and Shkodran Mustafi, plus well-known faces Jens Lehmann, Serge Gnabry and Bernd Leno. Thomas Eisfeld rounds off the list, who featured in two League Cup games between 2012 and 2013.
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