How do Florian Wirtz and Jamal Musiala compare?


In Florian Wirtz and Jamal Musiala, Germany have two of the brightest young players in world football to call upon. They also happen to be going head-to-head on Matchday 21 when leaders Bayer Leverkusen host second-placed Bayern Munich.

Two prodigious midfielders with the world at their feet: how do Wirtz and Musiala compare? bundesliga.com takes a closer look.

Will you go with Wirtz or Musiala – or both – in Fantasy this weekend?

All eyes will be on the BayArena this Saturday as Germany’s two best teams right now battle it out for top spot in the Bundesliga. Taking centre stage will be the two 20-year-old attacking midfielders as they try to give their club the edge in this title race of the highest calibre.

There are many similarities between the pair of young stars. They have made the No.10 spot their own having already proven they are the complete package. No matter what the coach demands of them, Wirtz and Musiala deliver. However, there are also areas where their strengths differ – and it’s those differences that make them ideal for their respective team.

Watch: Get ready for The Big One!

Positions: The 10.5 vs. versatile playmaker

A quick look at the formations for Leverkusen and Bayern in their last league outings tells you that neither player operates as a classic No.10. Wirtz plays as the left of the attacking midfield pair in Xabi Alonso’s hugely successful 3-4-2-1 line-up. Unlike other teams that use a back three like that, Wirtz and Jonas Hofmann do not push out wide but stay in central zones.

It means the two are often very close to each other in the area normally reserved for the sole No.10. While Hofmann is somewhat busier in how he gets about the pitch, Wirtz likes to sit in the inside left channel before moving even more centrally behind the lone striker. It means he isn’t a solo attacking midfielder on paper but will often operate as one.

As for Musiala, he didn’t even start centrally in the 3-1 victory over Borussia Mönchengladbach. Instead, he was deployed out on the left due to the number of absentees in the Bayern squad. However, that change isn’t an issue for the youngster given his style of play. It was the third time this Bundesliga campaign he was asked to play on the wing – nominally, that is. The Munich front three behind Harry Kane rotates a lot. So, whenever Thomas Müller drifted wide or further forward, Musiala could move into the space infield.

The same principle also applies whenever Musiala has been played as the No.10, often drifting wider to get involved. It means that the formation you see from Bayern on paper is just a basic idea of where someone like Musiala will perform his playmaking duties in a fluid attack.

Add in Kane and Leroy Sané, and the defending champions have another two players who will always slip into different positions – but always with the base positions of their 4-2-3-1 occupied.

The positions of Wirtz (top) and Musiala (bottom) in their starting formations. - DFL

That’s where things differ for Alonso’s Leverkusen. Yes, there is fluidity in various phases of the game, but the players generally only fulfil one specific role – perhaps just in a slightly different position on the pitch. For example, whenever Wirtz moves more centrally, left wing-back Alejandro Grimaldo instinctively advances forward but still keeps wide, so not to encroach in territory that Wirtz may want to use.

The passer vs. the dribbler

For teams that dominate play like Leverkusen and Bayern, their approach is to attack as quickly as possible. Opponents will often drop back and allow them the space to do their thing. They’re challenging the Bundesliga’s top two to find a way to break them down and create chances. Again, this is where we see a marked difference between the two playmakers, as one looks to pass his way into the box and the other likes to dribble with the ball at his feet.

The former is Wirtz, who is often found by his teammates between the lines. He then has the close control to turn and the vision to play the ball into the area. The Werkself’s creative force is the master of threading the needle. He ranks second in the Bundesliga for the most attempts at difficult passes (349, after Bochum’s Kevin Stöger with 356), which works out at some 20 per 90 minutes. Wirtz, however, boasts a superb completion rate from those difficult passes at 64 percent (Stöger is down at 46 percent) as he lets his distribution shine through.

Musiala does things differently. He’s only attempted 134 difficult passes (11 per 90 minutes), instead trying to drive the ball into the box by himself. The way he jinks and glides past defenders is a joy to watch and will populate many a highlights reel. Only when he’s cleared a path and the chance is open does he play his final pass. And despite the number of times he takes on his man, the Bayern forward still boasts an impressive success rate of 64.4 percent. No wonder he’s nicknamed Magic Musiala.

An example of the positions Wirtz (circled above) has provided assists from. - DFL

The provider vs. goalscorer

Productivity is also an area where the two Germany international teammates differ. Wirtz often pops up in front of goal, scoring five times and also striking the woodwork on a further four occasions (the most of any player in the division). However, it’s as the provider of the final pass where he’s most prolific, chalking up eight assists to rank third across the league.

There are also the numerous attacks that Wirtz launches that aren’t finished or then go through a host of other players before the final attempt. When it comes to passes to a shot, for example, the Pulheim native ranks top in the club charts with 46, although Grimaldo boasts one assist more.

Much of that is down to tactical positioning. When the opportunity arises, the 20-year-old looks to get into the box, although the Werkself’s quick play means there isn’t often much time. Wirtz is the heart of their attacks, so getting into those most dangerous zones rarely arises. When he does, then he’s just as clinical as Musiala. All five of Wirtz’s goals this season have been scored from inside the penalty area. He’s had 19 attempts from outside without finding the net.

Again, Musiala does things differently here. Since he mostly looks to dribble into the box, he presents the opponent with an option once he’s beaten a man: Do they attack Musiala and hope they can stop him? That will leave a Bayern attacker free. Or do they allow Musiala to keep going? That then allows the 20-year-old to go and finish himself.

All four of his goals from open play this campaign (he also scored one from a short free-kick just outside the area) have all come from inside the 18-yard box. In 2022/23, Musiala was Bayern’s second-best scorer with 12 goals, plus 10 assists. The Munich playmaker’s stats are therefore more balanced, with a slight lean towards scoring himself. Injuries at the start of this campaign mean he’s only got five goals and two assists, but the tendency is still visible.

The above shows where Musiala has scored his goals from open play in 2023/24. - DFL

Both complete players

It’s very tough to stop a player like Musiala with the ball at his feet – just as difficult as cutting out one of Wirtz’s perfectly timed passes in behind. Yet neither player would be as good as they are if they only carried out those tasks – however brilliantly – for their teams. The pair of 20-year-olds are both complete players, far beyond their goals and assists stats.

One thing they both do very well is how they counter-press. As a result, both have provided an assist directly after they won possession. Musiala regained the ball after he’d lost it against Mainz, drove inside and then set up Leon Goretzka to make it 3-1. Wirtz was clever in how he applied pressure against Union Berlin, intercepting an attempted clearance, playing a one-two with Grimaldo before the Spaniard produced a sublime finish.

They are both stars made for stellar performances. Think back to Musiala’s excellent goal in Cologne to win the title in 2022/23 or Wirtz’s twisting and turning one against Freiburg, where he sat down defenders before finding the far bottom corner – a goal voted 2023’s Goal of the Year by viewers of ARD’s ‘Sportschau’ programme in Germany.

Wirtz and Musiala both produce memorable moments, with even Alonso – who’s seen it all during his career – stating after Wirtz’s Freiburg goal: “I’ll remember that for a long time.”

Vote: Will Wirtz’s Leverkusen or Musiala’s Bayern win the title?

Which of the pair will write another chapter in the history books next as Leverkusen take on Bayern this Saturday?