From a small German village to the bright lights of the BayArena and the Bridge: this is the story of how Bayer Leverkusen’s former star Kai Havertz rose to the summit of world football.

For Havertz, it all began in the village of Mariadorf, just north of Aachen. It’s where the attacking midfielder both grew up and got early guidance in the sport.

“My grandpa really got me into football,” Havertz told “He helped me take my first steps. Obviously, my brother and father also did their bit to get me out there playing at an early age. Everyone was football crazy, and we were just a football family. We loved football and everything revolved around it, so I grew up with it and that’s how this passion developed.”

Havertz joined his first club, Alemannia Mariadorf, aged just four. His grandfather Richard was the long-time chairman at the club, and some say he passed on his own gift for the game.
“People were always saying I had the potential to make a career of it,” Havertz said. “But then it’s still 10, 12 years to work to get the chance to play in the Bundesliga or any other top league.”
After spending most of his time with Mariadorf in age groups two years above his own, in 2009 – aged 10 – he joined Alemannia Aachen, the biggest club in the region. At that time, they were a Bundesliga 2 side, and Kai was a regular fan.

“The best time was when Erik Meijer was playing up front,” Havertz explained. “Aachen had some fantastic players over the years, some of my own early heroes.”

The youngster only lasted one year at Aachen, though. Not because he wasn’t good enough, but because he had shown he was too good. Scouts had been watching Havertz play for several years, but a performance against Leverkusen made one talent spotter want a second look.

“Kai was playing for Alemannia Aachen’s under-12s – he was a year younger than everyone else and playing against our under-12s,” said Slawomir Czarniecki, a youth coach at the BayArena. “I don’t remember exactly how the game finished – 8-3 for us I think – but he scored their three goals. That was my first impression of Kai”.

He showcased his flexibility too, impressing in a more central attacking role in the second half of the campaign to end with 12 league goals and a DFB Cup runners-up medal. Along the way, in May 2020, Havertz fired Levekursen past Freiburg to become the first player in league history to reach 35 goals scored before turning 21.

The Germany international turned 21 a month later, and did so as a true leader for Leverkusen – having already worn the captain’s armband and taken further responsibility as a penalty taker. In the blink of an eye, he had gone from an exciting young prospect to one of the best players in Europe.

Now plying his trade at Chelsea under former Dortmund boss Thomas Tuchel, Havertz has been flourishing in a false nine role. Alongside fellow ex-Bundesliga stars Christian Pulisic and Timo Werner, he has now conquered the Champions League – and scored the winning goal to do so – when the Blues beat Manchester City in the final on 29 May 2021.

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