Kai Havertz is riding the momentum of his Champions League final winner

While Kai Havertz’s first season as a Chelsea player was punctuated by flickers of pure brilliance rather than illuminated by them, it ended in the best possible way.

In rounding Manchester City’s Ederson and rolling the ball into the gaping net for the winner in the Champions League final in May, Havertz may well have kick-started his Chelsea career.


Havertz rolls home the now iconic goal / SUSANA VERA/Getty Images

One of the biggest hurdles that has faced the world’s most gifted players down the years is shining consistently, rather than in those flashes. All the signs in the weeks and months since that fateful night in Porto suggest the 22-year-old is on the path to overcoming that hurdle.

In a squad littered with attacking talents including Serge Gnabry, Leroy Sane and Thomas Muller, Havertz was arguably Germany’s best performer at Euro 2020 and finished his nation’s disappointing campaign as their top scorer

While he had often lacked the confidence to exhibit his undoubted technique and skill as he got to grips with the Premier League last season, it felt as though the swagger was back in his game.

Against England in particular, Havertz was a Rolls-Royce; operating between the lines, he was given the freedom of Wembley by his Joachim Low, drifting around in the half-space, caressing through balls and gliding as he dribbled. A fingertip save from Jordan Pickford was all that came between him and a fine goal from a perfectly struck half-volley.

It is a shame that Havertz’s Euros would end prematurely that day in London because it felt as though – while he was already in his groove – he was about to reach another gear.

One month on in across north London it was evident that it won’t take long for Havertz to hit those heights again. In a 45-minute cameo against Arsenal in the opening match of the pre-season Mind Series, and in his first Chelsea appearance since the Champions League final, Havertz picked up where he left off.

Kai Havertz, Pablo MariKai Havertz, Pablo Mari

Havertz impressed in just 45 minutes against Arsenal / Marc Atkins/Getty Images

Deployed as a roaming false nine, the young German demonstrated both his development into a Premier League footballer and the confidence that Champions League-winning strike has given him. Again he flexed the attributes that made his display against England so easy on the eye, but with added braun in the form of hold-up play and strength – perhaps learned from the bygone Olivier Giroud.

But it is goalscoring that is becoming a welcome trend with Havertz, and he obliged once again at the Emirates with a supremely confident finish. Capitalising on some incredibly lax defending from the Gunners’ back line, Timo Werner broke down the left before rolling the ball into his compatriot who was holding his run centrally.

With that Champions League confidence still coursing through his veins, Havertz took a touch out of his feet and crashed the ball into the roof of Bernd Leno’s goal despite the attentions of Kieran Tierney – an unerring finish from a player you feel we shall see the best of in 2021/22.

With the goals he is adding and based on the summer he has had, Havertz is beginning to look like a player who can put in a minimum 7/10 performance week in, week out – and the impact of a winning goal on club football’s biggest stage cannot be underestimated.

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Thomas Tuchel reveals what Ruben Loftus-Cheek must do to secure his Chelsea place

Chelsea manager Thomas Tuchel wants midfielder Ruben Loftus-Cheek to give ‘150%’ in the remainder of pre-season to prove that he deserves a permanent place in the Blues squad.

Chelsea fans are eager for the homegrown favourite to finally establish himself as a regular, but Tuchel has warned that Loftus-Cheek has to push himself much further to achieve it.

After 40 appearances for Chelsea during the 2018/19 season following a successful loan at Crystal Palace, Loftus-Cheek missed almost all of the 2019/20 campaign because of injury. He then spent last season on loan at Fulham, regaining his match fitness and confidence.

Being able to make his mark back at Stamford Bridge is now the next step. But the player is tasked with impressing a new manager in Tuchel, with the German having taken over in January.

Thomas Tuchel wants to see more from Loftus-CheekThomas Tuchel wants to see more from Loftus-Cheek

Thomas Tuchel wants to see more from Loftus-Cheek / Chloe Knott – Danehouse/Getty Images

“Generally, I am happy and that’s why he plays, he deserves to play at this point of the preparation,” Tuchel explained to football.london on the situation.

“But I think he can do even more, he can show up more,” the boss continued. “He can show more physical capability and drive more with the ball. I’m never satisfied with him, I have the feeling we need to push him to the absolute limit.

“It’s too early to judge Ruben. He has everything in his hands and it’s on him to decide his own future like every player. He has to keep on going 150% because 100% is not enough.”

Loftus-Cheek started Chelsea’s 2-1 pre-season friendly win over Arsenal in the Mind Series and impressed with his display, outshining Mateo Kovacic, who lined up alongside him in midfield.

90min rated Loftus-Cheek 7/10, with Tom Gott summarising his performance as follows: ‘Began incredibly hot, bursting forwards and playing some decent passes. Quietened down somewhat as the game went on but continued to make an impact.’

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The clubs Lautaro Martinez could potentially join this summer

Inter forward Lautaro Martinez looks likely to move on this summer as the Serie A champions seek to cash in and lower their costs to become more financially sustainable.

The Argentine star has been crucial to Inter’s recent rise back to the pinnacle of Italian football, scoring 40 goals in all competitions over the last two seasons and forging a prolific partnership with central striker Romelu Lukaku.

Martinez had previously looked likely to commit his future to Inter and earlier this year expressed his interest in staying at San Siro. But circumstances have changed and a transfer now appears to be the best solution for all parties.

At least his performances mean there is unlikely to be a shortage of suitors.

Here’s a roundup of seven clubs he could plausibly join…

Mohamed Salah, Sadio Mane, Roberto FirminoMohamed Salah, Sadio Mane, Roberto Firmino

Liverpool need to start thinking about the future / Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images

Liverpool have no choice but to start thinking about life after Mohamed Salah, Sadio Mane and Roberto Firmino, all of whom are now 29. That started last summer with the recruitment of Diogo Jota, but the Reds needs need much more and Martinez fits the bill at just 23.

The issue for Liverpool would be finding the money to fund a bid. The 2019/20 Premier League champions have already spent £36m this summer by triggering Ibrahima Konate’s release clause, giving them no option of spreading the cost over several annual instalments.

An offer for Martinez could be staggered, as with Jota, but it would undoubtedly take a lot of persuading to get Inter to agree to a deal from which they might not get fully paid until 2026.

Kylian MbappeKylian Mbappe

PSG might have to find a replacement for Kylian Mbappe / John Berry/Getty Images

PSG face losing Kylian Mbappe, whether it be this year or next. The French superstar is not expected to sign a new contract at Parc des Princes and his preference has long been understood to be Real Madrid, who want to open talks imminently.

If PSG refuse to sell, they risk losing Mbappe to Real as a free agent at the end of the season anyway, so it will be in their best interest to cash in instead.

If that is how the Mbappe saga pans out, PSG will need a replacement and will have money to spend. It makes a lot of sense for them to go after Martinez in that scenario.

Harry KaneHarry Kane

Spurs would be interested if Harry Kane leaves / Visionhaus/Getty Images

Rather like PSG, Tottenham could find themselves in the market for a replacement forward this summer if they lose talisman and top scorer Harry Kane.

Kane wants to leave Spurs in pursuit of major trophies and has been a major target for Manchester City, although manager Pep Guardiola has publicly denied they can could afford to sign him.

Spurs won’t sell Kane for anything less than an enormous bid, which would mean having a lot of money to spend on a replacement. Martinez would have to be on the radar if Kane goes, but only if Kane goes.

Pep GuardiolaPep Guardiola

Man City want a new striker but there are doubts about some o their more expensive targets / Robbie Jay Barratt – AMA/Getty Images

Manchester City are in need of a forward this summer and it would be foolish of the club to put all of their eggs in Kane’s basket. Martinez has been of interest to the reigning Premier League champions for several months and they have monitored his situation.

The Inter star wouldn’t be first choice for City, but Kane is a much more complicated pursuit because of the vast expense of the potential operation. Martinez would still be a valuable addition as an alternative.

City have lost Sergio Aguero since the end of last season and failure to land a new striker before the transfer deadline would leave their squad weaker.

Erling HaalandErling Haaland

Martinez is a cheaper alternative this summer to Erling Haaland / Fran Santiago/Getty Images

Chelsea are another Premier League club keen to sign a new striker this summer, with Borussia Dortmund superstar Erling Haaland their primary target for far.

90min was first to report Chelsea’s preparedness to offer up to £150m for Haaland this summer – ideally closer to £135m – in order to beat the competition to his signature ahead of a release clause being activated next year.

But they too have been sure not to allow themselves to get too wrapped up in pursuit of their number one target in case it doesn’t prove viable. With Lukaku unavailable, Martinez has been a back-up target of interest for several months already.

Mikel ArtetaMikel Arteta

Arsenal are in the midst of a major squad rebuild / Steve Welsh/Getty Images

Arsenal have already committed around £75m to the signings of Nuno Tavares, Albert Sambi Lokonga and Ben White this summer, while they have unsuccessfully offered £25m for Aaron Ramsdale and are interested in £70m-rated James Maddison.

It all forms part of a crucial squad rebuild and Martinez has emerged as the latest target.

Partially funded by sales, the Gunners are prepared to spend up to £250m on players who fit their criteria: under 25, with the potential to improve and increase in value. Martinez is exactly that.

Diego SimeoneDiego Simeone

Atletico Madrid could offer a route to La Liga / CARMEN JASPERSEN/Getty Images

Martinez has been close to moving to La Liga in the past when Barcelona wanted to sign him last summer but didn’t have the funds available to make a formal offer to Inter.

The situation hasn’t changed for Barça, who need to slash costs just to re-sign Lionel Messi and register their free agent signings, but Spain might not be off the table for Martinez.

Atletico Madrid are reigning champions and have already seen a potential swap deal for Antoine Griezmann fall through in recent weeks. If Joao Felix were to leave, as rumoured, there would be even more call to bring in a new forward.

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Hugo Lloris absent from training amid speculation over Spurs future

Tottenham goalkeeper Hugo Lloris was one of a handful of players absent from an open training session on Saturday, which has led some to speculate about the Frenchman’s future.

Lloris is in the final year of his Spurs contract and, due to turn 35 in December, questions have started to be asked about how much longer he will stay in north London. The club appear to be preparing for that eventuality by bringing in Atalanta number one Pierluigi Gollini.

Lloris has reported for duty since representing France at Euro 2020, taking a place on the bench for last week’s friendly against MK Dons. But football.london has noted that the goalkeeper subsequently did not take part in training on Saturday.

The Spurs captain wasn’t the only player missing from the session, with Ben Davies, Joe Rodon and Moussa Sissoko also absent. The likes of Harry Kane, Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg, Giovani Lo Celso and Davinson Sanchez are yet to report for duty following international tournaments.

There was no reason given for Lloris not being there and the absence of others in similar circumstances would suggest there is nothing to be concerned about.

But it hasn’t stopped the bubbling speculation about his future, especially as it was only a few days ago that The Athletic reported that Lloris is due to hold talks with the club.

Gollini’s initial arrival is only a season-long loan but the deal does include an option to buy next summer. The 26-year-old had been Atalanta number one since 2018, helping the club finish third in Serie A each season to become an established Champions League qualifier.

Pierluigi GolliniPierluigi Gollini

Spurs have already signed Pierluigi Gollini from Atalanta / Marco Luzzani/Getty Images

He played in the Champions League in each of the last two seasons, reaching the quarter-finals in 2019/20, and it would be naïve to think that he has joined Spurs solely to be a back-up.

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Man Utd must give a transformed Donny van de Beek the chance to prove himself

Manchester United midfielder Donny van de Beek is believed to be working on a new fitness programme ahead of the 2021/22 season in the hope of a better second campaign than his first, but the club now needs to give him the chance to prove himself

There has never been any doubt about Van de Beek’s quality. He was good enough to play a major role as Ajax got within a kick of the 2019 Champions League final and was nominated for the Ballon d’Or that year as a result. United saw fit to agree a £40m deal to sign him last summer and Real Madrid arguably would have signed him before that had they had the capital available.

Van de Beek even scored on his Premier League debut when he came off the bench in United’s opening game of last season. But that was pretty much as good as it got for him.

For whatever reason, manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer didn’t seem to have enough faith in him. It was November before Van de Beek started his first Premier League game and he only started four times in the league all season – two of those were in the final two weeks of the season when a top four place was secure and the pressure to get results was off.

Donny van de BeekDonny van de Beek

Van de Beek only started four Premier League games in 2020/21 / Matthew Ashton – AMA/Getty Images

At one time, United had considered offering Van de Beek to Borussia Dortmund as a sweetener in the Jadon Sancho negotiations, while it was more recently reported that Van de Beek has been the subject of ‘tentative enquiries’ from clubs in Italy, Spain and Germany. But the player himself is said to be keen to stay and fight for his place at Old Trafford.

When he did infrequently appear in the second half of the season in particular, Van de Beek looked devoid of confidence and match fitness. He was often off the pace and looked out of place.

In the context of a pandemic and the restrictive protocols in place, last summer was probably the worst time to swap clubs, especially overseas. But this summer has provided an opportunity for Van de Beek, with his withdrawal from Euro 2020 through injury arguably a blessing in disguise.

Having some time off will have done him plenty of good, both mentally and physically. Yet improving his physical condition, perhaps the single biggest factor which stopped him making the desired impact in the vastly different world of Premier League football, has also been at the forefront of his mind.

The Athletic has reported that Van de Beek has sought the help of a specialist training centre in Amsterdam and, in conjunction with United’s medical and training staff, has set about working on building his physical strength and gaining muscle. The effect of that programme was noticeable when the 24-year-old appeared for the first time in pre-season against Brentford last week.

If Van de Beek is now fitter and stronger, he could have a significant role to play this season, especially with a lack of depth in midfield ultimately holding United back in 2020/21.

There are question marks over Paul Pogba’s future beyond even this summer. But while Van de Beek still may not get into United’s strongest starting XI, the ability to rotate is absolutely crucial to success – it is no coincidence that Manchester City ran away with last season’s title when they were able to call upon a plethora of attacking talents to keep everyone fresh.

The technical ability is already there, but if Van de Beek now has the physicality to complement that, a bigger role is waiting for him in 2021/22. United just need to give him the chance.

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