After an eventful first campaign in England packed with trials and tribulations, Chelsea creative midfielder Kai Havertz scored the Champions League-sealing winner overnight in the biggest game of his blossoming career to date – sinking Premier League champions Manchester City.
No better time than the present
It felt prophetic that a lucrative acquisition under just as much scrutiny and criticism as Germany teammate Timo Werner would be the man to seal it.
Havertz rounding Ederson before staying cool to finish a well-worked move in transition just before half-time proved devastating as it was damning from Manchester City’s perspective.
As much as everyone was quick to brand this as another big game Pep Guardiola had overthought with his team selection, Chelsea beat them with width – not through the middle, as holding midfield pair Fernandinho and Rodri would’ve also been exposed had either started.
UK broadcaster BT Sport got exactly the soundbite they didn’t want after Des Kelly disingenuously asked him about how his winner might’ve gone some way to justifying his pricetag afterwards, but the playmaker was more measured during his other post-match media.
“I don’t know what to say, I waited a long time – 15 years – for this moment and now it’s here.”
Cesar Azpilicueta, his captain, perhaps said it best:
“He deserves that, it’s been a tough season. This guy is going to be a superstar, he is already. He gave us the Champions League, not only that he ran like crazy.”
Havertz, who endured a difficult time this season especially after contracting COVID-19 in November, has already been tipped for better things by many in the years to come.
Rightly so. After all, this is the same player who courted interest from Europe’s elite clubs after consistently dazzling for Bayer Leverkusen before his big move last summer.
He turns 22 on June 11, just four days before Germany’s Euro 2020 campaign gets underway against World champions France. Group F also features defending titlists Portugal and a challenging Hungary, so it’ll be interesting to see how Joachim Löw’s men fare during his last international tournament in charge – with familiar faces among them.
Antonio Rudiger’s inch-perfect block to thwart Phil Foden in the first-half was key as Chelsea’s confidence grew, while his tactical bodycheck on Kevin de Bruyne also saw City’s best player limp off in tears and has emerged as a possible injury doubt for Belgium ahead of the Euros.
He and Werner, who again looked unconvincing on the ball but threatening off it, were both among Low’s six Premier League call-ups. Chelsea struggled to break down smaller teams in domestic action this past season, finishing 19 points behind eventual winners City in the league.
Whether you believe they simply stopped playing for Frank Lampard or were naturally enduring a poor run of form, their inconsistency is a concern that needs addressing.
They possess a core group, championed by academy products Mason Mount (22) and Reece James (21) alongside their expensive acquisitions – the aforementioned German duo, Ben Chilwell and others 25 or younger. All of the above played their part, in different ways, to win big.
James marshalled Raheem Sterling with consummate ease throughout, Mount played the killer pass for Havertz’s winner while Chilwell provided width – the pair playing passes in the build-up.
Club owner Roman Abramovich meeting Tuchel for the first time after they were crowned European champions last night rather typifies the icy yet remarkably successful dynamic with which the Russian operates on – something no-one, not least Tuchel, needs reminding.
But for now, even if it’s brief, this time is to celebrate and recharge.
Germany’s upcoming itinerary:
Denmark – June 2
Latvia – June 7
France – June 15
Portugal – June 19
Hungary – June 23
Picture source: Getty Images