Editor's note: Tor-Kristian Karlsen is a Norwegian football scout and executive and is the former chief executive and sporting director at AS Monaco. He will write regularly for ESPN on the business of soccer and the process of scouting. In his latest column, he looks at new Chelsea attacker Kai Havertz.
In what's been a busy summer for Chelsea on the transfer front, their latest raid on the market is definitely the most spectacular. The signing of German international Kai Havertz is a real coup for the West London club, with the £62 million signing from Bayer Leverkusen having been high on the wish-list of all the biggest clubs in European football. Evidently Chelsea's executive management have not only entered the transfer window with a clear plan, but they have also managed to execute it without much hesitation or deviation. It's to their credit that Havertz is being presented in London and not Madrid.
Just a brief glance at the 21-year-old's statistics reveal quite an extraordinary story: from 118 Bundesliga appearances, he's already amassed an impressive 36 goals and 25 assists. Yet it's not just the numbers that impress. The Aachen-born attacking midfielder is equally appealing to the aesthetes, a real joy to watch. His touch on the ball is so sensitive that he often sends opponents the wrong way, allowing him to slide past almost unchallenged. He often looks quicker with the ball at his feet than when running without it.
Already capped seven times by Germany, Havertz is naturally left-footed but almost equally able on his right, giving him the versatility to perform either out wide or in a more central playmaking role. With his back to goal, he's an excellent link-up player as well. Always aware of movements around him, he's able to spot and service runners with the ball, often just through a flick, back-heel or neat little touch with the outside of his foot. His excellent balance and coordination mean that when he turns to face goal, he's able to take on opponents and feed his teammates with nicely weighted passes or that "killer ball" behind the defensive line. As proven by his goalscoring record, he's excellent at timing his runs into the box and finishing calmly with either foot.
Due to his slightly lanky 6-foot-2 frame, Havertz can be mistaken for a rather frail player. But the appearance is, to a certain point, deceptive. Though not powerful in the true sense of the word, the German is hard to knock off the ball and, for a player of his size, he's good at keeping himself on his feet.
As mentioned at the top, Havertz was attracting interest from many leading clubs and one chief international scout, who works for one of the traditional top 10 clubs in Europe, confirmed to me why he was so sought-after.
As it turns out, the scout started tracking Havertz even before he broke into the Bayer Leverkusen first team. "I remember Havertz winning the German U17 championship with Bayer Leverkusen and even then he struck me as really mature, both as a player and as a person. He played with great presence and personality even then."
Summarising the German's physical and technical abilities, he says: "Havertz has the perfect body structure for an absolutely top-level footballer: he's slender, yet athletic. Technically he's excellent, good in the air and, though he's left-footed, his ability to use both feet is second to none."
Sounding rather rueful that his team missed on out Havertz, he adds: "In my view he's simply a fantastic player. For me, tactically, he's the complete central midfielder. Recently he's been fielded as a winger and as a striker, but for me he's a central midfielder; the perfect number eight. From that position he can take advantage of his intelligence, but first and foremost his ability to contribute offensively and score goals -- not to mention his capacity to find space between the lines and cover ground.
"For Chelsea, he's capable of scoring as many as Frank Lampard used to from that same role. At just 21 he comes with bags of experience, even from Champions League level. He's definitely ready to be an important piece in a new Chelsea top team," he concludes.
A second scout -- again with plenty of experience in assessing top players for a well-recognised club -- is also an admirer of the general abilities Chelsea's new signing boasts, but he does have his reservations about Havertz ending up permanently in his manager's footsteps.
"Even if I suspect Chelsea have bought Havertz with the idea of fielding him as a number eight, I'm not sure the intensity and the defensive work ethic is there to feature consistently in that role," he says. "In my eyes, the most suitable position for him would be as a supporting striker. From higher up the pitch and without the excessive defensive responsibilities, one will get a better return from his creativity, flair and ability to score and set up other players.
"I'd like to see him receiving the ball between the lines and using the space created by the centre-forward."
Despite those reservations, the consensus is that it's hard to find negatives in the Germany international's game, with a German scout pointing out how Havertz is striving to improve even further. "He's worked on his finishing skills over the past season and also become more mature on the pitch, taking more responsibility in the team," he comments. "Really, any weaknesses are only obvious when he's playing on the wing, especially on the right, as his crossing could be better and his dribbling skills are not that outstanding. He's most effective and efficient if he's playing more centrally."
Regardless of whether Havertz ends up being fielded as a box-to-box midfielder, a deep-lying striker or even an inverted winger, Frank Lampard will enjoy the skill set that his latest signing provides and from any of those positions and Havertz should thrive as one of the figureheads for an exciting, new-look Chelsea side. The combination of Havertz's intelligent link-up play and sophisticated little touches, the craft of Mateo Kovacic behind him, the trickery coming from Christian Pulisic and Hakim Ziyech out wide and the relentless movement and pace of Timo Werner up front are certain to delight the Stamford Bridge faithful.