Kai Havertz successor Florian Wirtz was the driving force behind Bayer Leverkusen's 2-1 win over Borussia Dortmund. - © DFL
Kai Havertz successor Florian Wirtz was the driving force behind Bayer Leverkusen's 2-1 win over Borussia Dortmund. - © DFL
bundesliga

Florian Wirtz: MD17's Man of the Matchday, Bayer Leverkusen's teenager ahead of the Kai Havertz curve

Not for the first time in his still-young career, Florian Wirtz deposed former Bayer Leverkusen teammate Kai Havertz in the Bundesliga history books with his match-winner against Borussia Dortmund on Matchday 17.

Thundering an effort past Dortmund goalkeeper Roman Bürki with 10 minutes of normal time remaining, Wirtz capped a man-of-the-match display by becoming the youngest player to reach four career Bundesliga goals, aged 17 years and 261 days.

Havertz was 83 days Wirtz's senior when he reached the same tally. Previous record-holder Timo Werner was 84 days shy of his 18th birthday.

"We all know what a good player Flo is," summarised Leverkusen sporting director Simon Rolfes. "He put in a really good performance."

Watch: Bayer Leverkusen 2-1 Borussia Dortmund - in 60 seconds!

And how. A hive of energy from start to finish following two games on the sidelines, Wirtz registered three shots on goal, played four key passes, got the better of his marker in five out of six dribble attempts, enjoyed 62 touches, won a game-leading 21 challenges and covered a team-leading 7.82 miles (12.6 kilometres).

Take him out of the game, and Leverkusen might have woken up on Wednesday nursing a five-game winless headache.

Instead, Bayer climbed to a temporary second ahead of Saturday's clash with top-four rivals Wolfsburg. Wirtz rolled out of bed for another morning of high school. Yes, Germany's brightest talent since Havertz is still in secondary education. Earlier in the season, he even missed a UEFA Europa League tie against Slavia Prague because of an impending exam.

"He goes to school every morning at 7:30 until 9:30, then he's at the club by 9:45 and at 10:00 we begin preparing for training at 10:30," explained Die Werkself coach Peter Bosz. "Then it's lunchtime, time for a shower, and then he goes to school again for the rest of the afternoon. We have promised his parents that school is the most important thing right now."

Wirtz (c.) burst onto the first-team scene towards the end of Havertz's (1st.l) decade-long stint with Leverkusen. - gumzmedia / Nordphoto / Andreas Gumz / POOL / imago images

Wirtz will have a fair bit more swotting up to do before school's out for summer, but he is already showing himself to be top of the class in his day job.

He became Leverkusen's youngest ever debutant during the second half of 2019/20, and the league's greenest scorer when he fired past Bayern Munich's Manuel Neuer back in June, before 16-year-old Dortmund forward Youssoufa Moukoko reset the bar in December 2020.

Midway through his first full senior campaign, Wirtz has contributed three goals and four assists to Leverkusen's tally of 32 league strikes - almost a quarter of their total, and a bigger hand than all other players aged 17 or under across Europe's top five leagues combined (six).

No wonder 1990 Ballon d'Or winner Lothar Matthäus can see a bit of himself in Bayer's fresh-faced talisman.

"I remember when I was his age, or a bit older, I played in a similar position to what he is playing in now," Matthäus said in an exclusive interview with bundesliga.com.

"He's a box-to-box player, he knows the right moment to give the right passes, he knows when he has to get into the box. There are many talented young players in the Bundesliga, but I like Wirtz.

"He's 17 years old and he's a talented midfield player. You have to watch him. He will be the next Kai Havertz. He will go the same way as Havertz."

Wirtz has registered seven goals and six assists in 29 competitive appearances, across his first year at Leverkusen. - WOLFGANG RATTAY/POOL/AFP via Getty Images

Some might say Wirtz is already ahead of the curve, which is exactly where he wants to be.

"I watched [Havertz] in training; how he behaved in front of goal, and moved in the space," Wirtz told Sportbild magazine, having broken through the Bundesliga's 20-game barrier sooner and scored more goals than his predecessor managed at the same age.

"It motivates me to be even better than Kai."