As far as Bayern Munich fans are concerned, Kai Havertz is the holy grail of football transfers at the moment. There is no other player more coveted by the fanbase, arguably not even Leroy Sane. The Bayer Leverkusen youngster set the league alight last season and has been linked with every top club in Europe — Liverpool, Barcelona, Real Madrid, you name it. Only Leverkusen’s absurd asking price has kept these teams at bay.
Now, however, the situation has changed somewhat. After bursting onto the scene in 2018/19, Havertz has noticeably slowed down in the current year, falling far short of the performances needed to justify his alleged 130m euro price tag. Despite this, most fans and pundits still think of him as the next big German talent, and are urging Bayern to snap him up next summer at Leverkusen’s asking price.
Here’s why that shouldn’t be the case:
A one-season wonder?
A lot has been made of Kai Havertz’s disappointing season so far, and it’s true — he’s suffered an immense performance downturn. His goals per 90 mins is down by almost half, and while his xGChain numbers are good, his buildup numbers have suffered. Kai’s insane talent doesn’t look as insane anymore, especially compared with other up-and-coming players in the Bundesliga like Gladbach’s Marcus Thuram and Breel Embolo.
This would be less worrying if it wasn’t an established pattern with Leverkusen. A few years ago, Leon Bailey burst onto the scene with 12 goals and 6 assists in his first proper season in the Bundesliga. The Jamaican winger was quickly seen as a candidate to replace Arjen Robben or Franck Ribery at Bayern. However, in the year immediately following his emergence, his performances fell off a cliff and have never recovered. To this day he is a bit-part player for Leverkusen, and big clubs who were once smitten with him have turned their attention elsewhere.
One of the reasons given for Havertz’s decline in form is the departure of Julian Brandt to Borussia Dortmund. It’s a valid reason, but it does not hold water as an argument for why Bayern should buy Havertz. There is no Julian Brandt at Bayern Munich — only Philippe Coutinho resembles Brandt in terms of playing style, and the Brazilian will likely be gone by next season.
The most prudent thing for Bayern to do now would be to adopt a wait-and-see approach. Can Havertz work his way through his current slump and rediscover world-class form? Consistency should be the target here. Spending €130m on a player who has had one good season at the top level is foolhardy, especially when Bayern aren’t lacking quality at Havertz’s position.
An expiring contract
Another reason why waiting makes sense is the duration of Havertz’s contract. It expires in the summer of 2022. If Bayern were to make an approach this summer, Leverkusen could stick to their guns and demand an exorbitant price, just like Manchester City did when the Bavarians opted to approach Leroy Sane.
By waiting another year, Havertz enters the last year of his contract, and Leverkusen lose any negotiating power they had previously. Even if Kai rediscovers his form, his price will be much cheaper than the €130m that’s being quoted now, because Bayer would risk losing him for free the following year.
It just makes financial sense for Bayern Munich to wait. As for other suitors, they’re unlikely to make much of a difference. The number of clubs that can afford Havertz, are a suitable destination for a talent like him, and have a pressing need to sign him — is very small, basically nonexistent. Liverpool don’t use an attacking midfielder. Manchester City have Kevin De Bruyne locked down. Barcelona have Leo Messi. PSG have Neymar. Real Madrid also don’t use attacking midfielders (otherwise James Rodriguez would get some game time).
With all that taken into consideration, choosing not to splash the cash on Havertz this summer is the best choice. There are more pressing matters the money can be spent on, such as a new center-back and possibly a new defensive midfielder — plus new contracts for key players such as Thiago Alcantara, David Alaba, Manuel Neuer, and Thomas Müller.
Thomas Müller’s resurgent form
Speaking of Thomas Müller, his form is a major reason why Kai Havertz is not a pressing need for Bayern Munich at the moment. Recall the Leroy Sane saga for a second — the reason why Bayern went all-in on him was because the club was desperate for a new winger following the departures of Arjen Robben and Franck Ribery.
Muller meanwhile is just thirty years old and shows no signs of slowing down. Despite limited playing time under Niko Kovac (including a two-month stretch without starting a single game), the Bavarian native has enjoyed a second spring under Hansi Flick, registering 5 goals and 8 assists in just 11 games in all competitions. That’s better than Havertz’s tally of 5 goals and 2 assists for the entire season (23 games), despite the fact that the youngster has played significantly more minutes than Müller.
With Müller in such incredible form and very seldom injured, there is simply no pressing need for Bayern to go all-in for Havertz in the summer of 2020.
It appears that the people in charge of Bayern Munich are well aware of these arguments. According to TZ reporter Manuel Bonke, who has proven himself as a reliable source of insider info, it’s unlikely that Kai Havertz will transfer to Bayern in the summer:
Koa Kai? Es sieht derzeit stark danach aus, als ob Kai #Havertz im Sommer nicht zum #FCBayern wechseln wird. Priorität hat ein Flügelstürmer, also Leroy #Sané. Dessen Verpflichtung gestaltet sich durch den Berater-Wechsel schwieriger als gedacht, ist aber freilich weiter möglich.— Manuel Bonke (@mano_bonke) January 29, 2020
Koa Kai? At the moment, it looks a lot like Kai #Havertz will not transfer to #FCBayern in the summer. The priority is a winger, i.e. Leroy #Sane, Signing him is proving to be more difficult than expected on account of his change of agents, but is of course still possible.
This is a very plausible assessment, given all the reasons that have been outlined. Sane was always going to be the club’s top priority in the summer, and committing €80m or more to him AND another €100m or so to Havertz would cripple Bayern’s ability to make more important reinforcements in other areas. Therefore, the most prudent course of action would be to wait and see how things play out. Havertz may well join Bayern Munich someday, but the time has not yet come.