Kai Havertz appreciates better than most the value of a goal on the big occasion and the way it can alter perceptions.
Take his last three for Chelsea, the first in a big European tie, a nerveless late penalty to claim the world title and the opener in a Carabao Cup semi-final to set up tomorrow’s date with Liverpool at Wembley.
He has developed a happy knack but the one that secured his place in history and in the hearts of supporters at Stamford Bridge came against Manchester City, the only goal in last year’s Champions League final in Porto.
Kai Havertz scored the winning goal in the Champions League final last year for Chelsea
The Chelsea forward celebrates after scoring the only goal at Estadio do Dragao in Porto
‘The goal changed everything,’ admits Havertz, as he reflects on the impact of his sprint onto a pass from Mason Mount, his first touch to evade goalkeeper Ederson and his second to roll the ball into an empty net.
‘If I had not scored that goal, everyone would say it had been a disaster of a first season for me. I would not have said that myself because I knew I was only 20, almost 21, when I came here and, at this age, it is not easy. It can take one, two or three years to adapt to this league, to this club, to this new lifestyle and this goal helped me a lot.
‘Two seconds in one year maybe changed the whole year for me. Small things can turn everything around.’
Overnight, Havertz became the hero of Porto rather than just another expensive striker, signed from Bayer Leverkusen for £71million and misfiring in the Premier League.
He volunteers this example by way of encouragement and support to Romelu Lukaku, currently living through a similar experience, finding it hard to be influential after a £97.5m move from Inter Milan.
Havertz has offered his support to Romelu Lukaku who has struggled to find his best form
‘I know this feeling,’ says Havertz. ‘When you come to a club with a £100million package and everyone wants you to perform from the first to the last minute in a game. It is not easy to go into a game and score two or three goals.
‘We are all human, everyone makes mistakes, but apart from that I think we are being a little bit too hard on Rom. You cannot forget he scored in the semi-final and the final of the World Cup, goals which were huge for us.
‘Even though everyone keeps saying ‘he’s not scoring, he’s not scoring’ he has the most goals in our squad. It’s not too bad but everyone is always putting pressure on the big players, players who cost a lot of money.’
Across all competitions, Lukaku is Chelsea’s top scorer with 10 goals in 26 appearances in a campaign disrupted by an ankle injury.
Havertz, who finished last season with nine goals, has seven this season but only two in the Premier League.
‘I’m a little bit disappointed with my Premier League statistics but I’m here to improve and get better,’ says the 22-year-old Germany international. ‘I am not a (young) talent anymore. I have played for five years on a good level and showed I can score a lot of goals in a season.
‘I will try to keep my head up, score goals and make assists because as a number nine that’s what everyone wants you to do.’
He certainly has the temperament to cope under pressure, as proved with his penalty in the 117th minute of the Club World Cup final against Palmeiras.
Havertz also netted the winner from the penalty spot in the Club World Cup final
He has admitted that he wants to improve his numbers in the Premier League, though
‘When you stand on the pitch and the whole world is watching you take a penalty in the last minute you are nervous,’ says Havertz. ‘I just tried to calm down and remember when I was a kid, dreaming of these situations. You have to enjoy these moments.
‘After my career, I could sit there and think, ‘why didn’t I enjoy these moments more’. As a kid, you see these games and think, ‘how does the player feel? He is so happy’.
‘You have to focus on the ball and the goal and really try to enjoy it. I never imagined as a kid I would be in this type of situation so I thought, ‘enjoy it, even if you miss you can be proud of yourself’. I was trying to play down the pressure a little bit. And I think it helped me.’