No single goal can ever be worth £71m, but the one Kai Havertz scored in the 2021 Champions League final came close. While the German endured a challenging first season at Chelsea, it was the club’s most expensive player who delivered the moment to make them European champions for the second time.
Havertz did more than score the winning goal, although that will be what is written into Chelsea folklore. The 21-year-old played his best game for the Blues since making the move from Bayer Leverkusen last summer. N’Golo Kante might have been the most impressive player on the pitch, but Havertz wasn’t far off that level.
Pep Guardiola played into Chelsea’s hands with his team selection, allowing Thomas Tuchel’s side more control in the centre of the pitch than they surely anticipated, but Havertz was a reliable outlet for the Blues. This was illustrated in the way the German found the back of the net, latching on to a Mason Mount pass in behind to finish past Ederson.
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One wonders what Frank Lampard made of Havertz’s performance in Porto. The former Chelsea boss didn’t know where to play or how to use Havertz in the first half of the season, deploying the German either in a deep-lying role or on the wings. Neither suited the 21-year-old who has always been an attacker who thrives through the centre.
Of course, Havertz isn’t an orthodox number nine, but Tuchel has grasped how he can be used as an attacking apex. With Timo Werner buzzing around Havertz and Mount supporting from midfield, Chelsea’s frontline was fluid and highly effective. Werner missed two or three good opportunities to score, but his movement was crucial - see how his decoy run for the winning goal drew Ruben Dias away from Havertz.
All this was very impressive for a group of players that looked somewhat incoherent without a purpose as a unit only a few months ago. The impact Tuchel has made in a very short time has been profound and few embody that better than Havertz, who has gone from expensive misfit to Champions League final difference-maker.
Victory in Porto could be the start of a golden period for Chelsea. Tuchel’s squad still has some holes, but the core group is young and exciting and Havertz should be the generational talent he builds around. The 21-year-old has the talent to become a great at Stamford Bridge. He is destined to score in more finals and lift more silverware in blue.
As an attacking force, Havertz stood out against Manchester City. He made two key passes, created two big chances and won eight of his 14 duels on the ground. Tuchel’s system gave Chelsea the basis to win the match, but it required individual quality to actually pull it off. Havertz, among a few others, brought that.
Kai Havertz, Oleksandr Zinchenko
Image credit: Getty Images
On the flip side, Manchester City’s best players didn’t perform. Kevin de Bruyne was denied space until he was forced off with a head injury while Phil Foden was quiet for the full 90 minutes. Havertz was presented with the chance to get in behind numerous times, but City’s attackers never posed the same threat.
This was a match between two modern teams coached by two modern managers. Football at the elite level has changed in recent times and what unfolded in Porto was evidence of this. Havertz is a modern player and it’s understandable that some have needed time to work out what sort of figure he truly is. Is he a centre forward? A number 10? A ‘false nine’? Whatever the answer to these questions, he is now a Champions League winner and the central pillar of Chelsea’s future.
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