Liverpool have been linked to a number of players since the end of the Premier League season which saw them secure a place in qualifying rounds of the Champions League.
With Jürgen Klopp at the helm and a place in Europe’s elite competition just two positive results away, Fenway Sports Group have their best opportunity since buying the club to really flex their financial muscles.
The American owners are banking on the German coach’s persuasive ways to ensure players pick the project underway on Merseyside as opposed to the money of rival clubs.
However, the midfielder may not be the only arrival from the Bundesliga this summer. As exclusively revealed by Football Whispers, the Reds have spoken to Bayer Leverkusen about the availability of Kai Havertz, who was included in our list of the ten best teenage footballers in Europe, and Benjamin Henrichs.
Leverkusen finished in 12th position in the German league and accumulated half the amount of points of winners Bayern Munich in what was an underwhelming season.
It’s this poor league performance, coupled with missing out on European football next season which could mean Bayer see a mass exodus of players this summer.
One-time Chelsea transfer target Hakan Çalhanoğlu looks set to be the first player out of the door.
Former Leverkusen vice-captain Omar Toprak has already agreed to join Borussia Dortmund. Kevin Kampl, a rumoured target for Milan, has said he will definitely leave the club and highly-rated centre-back Jonathan Tah isn’t short of potential suitors.
It is believed Bayer Pharmaceuticals will pressure Bayer Sporting Director Rudi Völler into accepting any reasonable offers for their players.
Liverpool, ever the opportunists, are looking to potentially exploit their predicament by landing the supremely talented pair of Henrichs and Havertz at a knockdown price.
Who is Benjamin Henrichs?
The 20-year-old midfielder was deployed in the right-back role under former Leverkusen boss Roger Schmidt and occasionally on the opposite flank. However, by trade he’s a central midfielder. And a good one at that.
When coming up through the ranks he played a variety of roles in midfield; from sitting deep and setting the tempo to being one of the more attack-minded box-to-box men.
Schmidt, however, used a system which saw his full-backs drift into central areas and see a lot of the ball. The German manager decided to utilise Henrichs’ ability on the ball by starting him at right-back. Similar to what Pep Guardiola tried to do with the full-backs at Manchester City last season.
Being a natural midfielder, he’s comfortable when pressed in what many would consider to be dangerous areas. He’s not one to rush and doesn’t just look to get rid of the ball, instead opting to play out. The German international is talented enough to be able to not only spot a defence-splitting pass but to execute it, too.
There’s a reason Bayern are thought to be interested in securing his services.
It’s worth noting that all of the stats in the graphic are from the 2016/17 season which is Leverkusen’s worst in a number of years. However, it does make for interesting reading.
His high number of interceptions (3.4) shows a good reading and the closest Liverpool player to that was Jordan Henderson on 1.7.
While 3.4 tackles isn’t necessarily a good thing, with Italian legend Paolo Maldini once saying “If I have to make a tackle then I have already made a mistake”, context does need to be added.
Henrichs was often instructed to drift into central areas and therefore vacated his right-back position. If play was turned over he was, to the casual observer, out of position. To put an end to these potential counter attacks he had to make tackles.
Another positive when looking at the player and profiling him for Liverpool is, having played under Schdmit, he knows all about the organisation required to execute a perfect pressing tactic.
The one question mark would be where he will play at Anfield. He, no doubt, harbours aspirations of playing in midfield again.
Similar to Emre Can, though, would he displace his compatriot?
With Nathaniel Clyne and Trent Alexander-Arnold at right-back it’s unlikely he’s been identified to play there. So perhaps it’s at left-back he will be deployed.
Klopp likes to use his full-backs in his possession-based tactic and current incumbent James Milner was often a hub for the game to be played through, averaging more passes per 90 minutes than all but the deepest midfielder.
Who is Kai Havertz?
Havertz burst onto the scene last season and became something of a shining light during Leverkusen’s gloomy season. The versatile midfielder – capable of playing on either flank, behind the striker and even as a centre-midfielder – has only just turned 18 but has already made an impression on some of Europe’s biggest clubs.
He was forced to miss the Champions League match against Atlético Madrid in Spain because he had a Geography exam which couldn’t be moved. When, at just 17, his absence was noted there’s reason to believe he is a special talent.
“I forget the name right now, but there’s a Bayer Leverkusen player who has played in the first team and then wasn’t able to play against Atleti,” Real Madrid’s assistant coach Alberto Garrido told UEFA.com when asked if any one player had caught his eye in particular.
“Yes – it’s Kai Havertz – I think he’s a player who has really developed throughout the competition.”
An article on Bundesliga.com compared him to German legend Michael Ballack. There are some similarities to the former Chelsea midfielder. But the more you watch him the more you realise he has hints of Brandt, Marco Reus and Mario Götze to his game too.
The stats in the graphic above are Bundesliga only and, for context, he played 1,451 minutes.
His spatial awareness for someone so inexperienced is frightening. He’s forever getting into dangerous positions. Against Hertha Berlin, in the final round of Bundesliga, he notched a double. It was his second goal, though, which showed just how intelligent he is as an attacker and why he’s destined to be a goal threat.
Brandt attacks the left and has the beating of his man before driving into the penalty area. In the above image, Havertz is circled just arriving in the picture. Many players in this instance would linger on the edge of the area waiting for a pullback.
Not Havertz. The teenager attacks the space and is left with a simple tap in, albeit on his weaker foot. It’s a goal which is no doubt taken for granted. But all too often players wait for the ball to be played back before seeing their shot blocked by the number of bodies ahead of them.
He’s just a general nuisance; forever roaming and looking to pick up spaces between the lines. His delivery is good and he is powerful in the air. He can use both feet and he is technically sound as shown by his goal against Wolfsburg, giving his attacking play an added dimension. He’s by no means blistering but he’s got a burst of pace to beat his man.
Despite securing the signature of Salah, the Reds have been continued to be linked with attacking players. Gelson Martins of Sporting Lisbon, Southampton’s Dušan Tadić and an outrageous bid for Monaco wonderkid Kylian Mbappé have all been mooted in the press.
Could Havertz be the player to fill the space in the squad?