Florian Wirtz has taken on a leading role at Bayer Leverkusen this season. - © Bundesliga Collection via Getty Images
Florian Wirtz has taken on a leading role at Bayer Leverkusen this season. - © Bundesliga Collection via Getty Images

Wizard Florian Wirtz happy making magic at Bayer Leverkusen


Precisely ten months after making his return from a long-term knee injury, Bayer Leverkusen's balletic playmaker Florian Wirtz is back pirouetting his way around opposition defences to devastating effect.

Supported by a brilliant cast of talented teammates and with the shrewd Xabi Alonso as overseer-in-chief, Bundesliga leaders Leverkusen have made a record-equalling start to the German top-flight. All the while, Wirtz - who has started 10 of his team's 11 Bundesliga games in 2023/24 - has been a diamond dazzling in Bayer's free-flowing attack.

His progress paused by a cruciate ligament tear on a cruel day against Cologne back in March 2022, October's Player of the Month finally has his mojo back. Wirtz is weighing in with some great goals and fine assists in what has been a memorable campaign at the BayArena and beyond thus far, with desperate defenders often left chasing shadows when the 20-year-old picks up possession.

Watch: Wirtz was voted October's Player of the Month

"He and the ball were always just one; you could see that early on when I played against him or when we did things together with the football," Wirtz's sister Juliane - the Germany U19 defender who moved from Leverkusen to Werder Bremen last summer - recently said of her sibling. "Even just the way he looked at the ball! The fact is that he has a lot of talent but he’s also done a lot [in terms of working] on it. Early on, from when he was really young, you could tell that boy would have something to do with football."

What brother Florian has been doing in the sport this season has been extra special. The player with the most Bundesliga assists in 2023 (11), Wirtz has found the net in three competitions for Leverkusen, which included a Bundesliga October Goal of the Month contender in the Matchday 9 win against Freiburg that had fans across the globe scrambling to see it online. 

Watch: Florian and Juliane Wirtz - football-crazy siblings

"It was absolutely world class. You can't defend against Florian Wirtz," Freiburg coach Christian Streich said of the B04 No.10's piece of individual magic. "[Leroy] Sané, [Jamal] Musiala, Flo - there aren't that many players in the Bundesliga who can do things like that," Bayer coach Alonso commented, adding, "He will remember that for many years to come."

Flanked by the likes of striking sensation Victor Boniface, the evergreen Jonas Hofmann, experienced campaigner Granit Xhaka, a highly effective Alejandro Grimaldo and the flying Jeremy Frimpong - to name just a few of his stand-out teammates - Wirtz is among excellent company. However, for Leverkusen's managing director of sport Simon Rolfes, it isn't just the 20-year-old's goal and assist feats that have impressed, it is also the wunderkind's willingness and ability to win possession in crucial areas of the field that should be factored into any praise.

Watch: Wirtz reveals his boyhood footballing heroes

"Mental strength and self-confidence in his own quality is something that he's always had," the Bayer club official explained, in quotes appearing on Kicker. "He [now] has this aggressiveness going into duels. It took him a while after the injury to be stable on that front [but] he's taking giant strides in that aspect right now."

Indeed, Wirtz is third on Leverkusen's duels won list with 97 to his name in the Bundesliga this season. 

Across the board, the stats are just as impressive from the Germany international. Wirtz has averaged 34 sprints per 90 minutes in the Bundesliga, with only Frimpong bettering that number in Leverkusen colours in the campaign to date.

Of his 85 percent passing success rate, 31.8 percent falls into the category of 'risky passes,' making Wirtz the division's second best in the category. Little wonder, then, that the German gem is among several Bayer players sitting joint-third in the Bundesliga assists, with five to his name.     

Catch him if you can: Wirtz tormented Union Berlin in B04's win against the capital club - Christian Kaspar-Bartke/Bundesliga

All in all, there is a notable air of calm to the Pulheim native this season that seems to fit perfectly with his vision of the game. For his sister Juliane, having family close has been a big factor. “For him, it’s very important that we support him, that we are in the stadium and watch his games; he tells us that too,” she explained. “That’s what we are there for, to be a community that is there for him, just like he is there for us. I think he knows we are a very calming unit,” Wirtz’s younger sibling continued.

"Surrounded by us, he can be himself and not be the centre of attention as a footballer. Others can also take centre stage and other problems and things become more important than that. That combination of not just being a professional footballer but also being a brother, a son who shares concerns. I think he’s very lucky to have such a reliable group behind him."

"Of course I'm very proud of Flori and how he is managing to bounce back after the injury," Juliane told bundesliga.com after watching her brother from the stands as Leverkusen beat Werder Bremen on Matchday 12

"Somehow it feels like he is getting better every game and I find it wonderful how many people he is inspiring. I'm very proud of him and I hope it continues."

Watch: Florian and Juliane Wirtz on mutual pride

The sibling appreciation is certainly mutual: "I'm proud of her and the new path she is on at Bremen," Florian said of his sister. "I'm glad to see her having fun playing football again and getting game-time. I look forward to them having a successful season."

Success is something a rapidly maturing Wirtz is more than familiar with himself. And, after taking a major injury as a moment to reflect, he is now visibly enjoying being at the top of his game all the more for it. “My take from that time [out] is that you should never bury your head in the sand and that you can actually always take something positive from setbacks,” he said, not long after returning to action.

“During the phase where I couldn't be on the pitch, I had the chance to work through things you don't normally have time for. For me, that meant I was primarily able to bring my physical condition up to the next level.”

So much more than his impressive eight Bundesliga goal involvements this season, Wirtz has strengthened and rounded out his game under an impressive coach and is revelling in a Leverkusen team that appears made for him. With the comeback kid smiling again, don’t be surprised to see some silverware in Wirtz’s magical grasp before too long.