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Zidan Sertdemir: Could Leverkusen wonderkid become the new Havertz?

15:00 GMT+4 08/04/2022
Zidan Sertdemir NXGN GFX
The 17-year-old was a target for Arsenal and Ajax before moving to Germany in the summer of 2021 and has already become Bayer's youngest-ever player

Tall, slender and wearing the No.29 on his back – Bayer Leverkusen would have been forgiven for thinking that Kai Havertz had returned to the club as they watched their side draw with Hertha Berlin in November.

Appearing on the sidelines, ready to come on as a substitute, was a player matching the description of the club's best-ever academy graduate, though of course it was not the Chelsea forward returning to his boyhood club.

The player about to come on and make his professional debut while wearing the same number that Havertz used to own at the BayArena was, in fact, Zidan Sertdemir, and there are high hopes that he will make a similar impact on the Bundesliga to his predecessor in the coming years.

"I think they have given me the number because they feel that I have great talent and that they see me going in the same direction as he did," Sertdemir told Tipsbladet.

"It's great to be compared to him, now that he is at Chelsea, was sold for a lot of money, won the Champions League final and scored in it.

"But I do not feel that there is extra pressure on me because of it."

Regarded as one of Europe's top teenage talents, Sertdemir does share a lot of other attributes with Havertz aside from his squad number.

He possesses excellent technical ability, is an expert dribbler and has a vast passing range, all while knowing how to put the ball in the goal himself – even if he does generally play a little bit deeper than the 2021 Champions League final match-winner.

Sertdemir is not, though, a player who has been schooled within the Leverkusen system, as Havertz was from the age of 11.

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The German side are, in fact, his third professional club, having first swapped Brondby for FC Nordsjaelland in his native Denmark as a 12-year-old, before joining Leverkusen in a deal that could be worth up to €2 million (£1.7m/$2.2m) if he is able to establish himself as a first-team player.

Arsenal, Ajax and Borussia Monchengladbach were all also reported to be in the race for the midfielder who Kim Engstrom, the manager of Nordsjaelland's league rivals, Odense, called "the best 16-year-old in Denmark".

Sertdemir's family – who are of Turkish descent – were attracted by a move to Germany after being impressed by the way the Bundesliga has developed a host of young talents in recent years, most notbaly Erling Haaland at Borussia Dortmund.

"He has a special talent," claimed Bayer sporting director Simon Rolfes upon Sertdemir's arrival in June, but was keen to stress that he would be introduced into the senior squad "early" but "quietly".

That has led to Sertdemir training with the Bayer first team while predominantly playing for the club's Under-19s, for whom he has scored eight goals and laid on three assists in 13 appearances so far this season.

That form, coupled with him scoring five goals in as many games for Denmark U17s at the start of the season, helped him earn three substitute appearances for Gerardo Seoane's senior side, becoming Bayer's youngest debutant in the process.

Named after Zinedine Zidane, his father's footballing hero, it is clear that Sertdemir has tried to use the ex-France and Real Madrid star as a role model in his game.

He demands the ball, sometimes dropping extremely deep to receive it, and is not afraid to showcase a trick or two when pressured by defenders, making it extremely hard to get the ball off him.

Naturally left-footed, perhaps Sertdemir's greatest attribute is his passing.

He regularly opts against the most obvious ball to a team-mate, instead picking out passes that other players could only dream of making, though his reading of the game is, at times, too good for even his own team-mates.

The 17-year-old also takes a mean set-piece, while he is not afraid to do his defensive work when required, though Seoane still sees some improvements that need to be made if he is to take the next step in his career.

"With Zidan, you can see his good positional play between the lines, but he still lacks the physical traits," he said of the teenager, who stands at six foot (182cm) tall.

Those improvements will surely come for Sertdemir, who is aiming to follow in the footsteps of not just Havertz, but also Julian Brandt and NXGN 2022 runner-up Florian Wirtz in breaking through and becoming a key figure in Leverkusen.

The early signs are good for a player who has openly admitted that he dreams of one day winning the Ballon d'Or.

Who knows, he might even follow Havertz in doing that too!

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