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 4 when Bayern Munich host Bayer Leverkusen...
First, let's qualify that this pair are indeed wunderkinder by looking at some of the records they already have to their names.
Little more than two months older than Wirtz, Musiala followed his Leverkusen rival in bursting out of the blocks and into the big time. His Bayern debut came in June 2020 when he replaced Thomas Müller in a 3-1 win over Freiburg at 17 years, three months and 26 days of age, making him the champions' youngest ever player.
His first Bundesliga goal was claimed in the opening day 8-0 drubbing of Schalke in 2020/21 and he added a UEFA Champions League strike to his collection in a 4-1 win over Lazio in February that season, making him Bayern's youngest goalscorer in both competitions at the time. It was not long before Musiala, now 20, became the first 18-year-old to have several Bayern goals to his name.
Watch: Wirtz on target as Leverkusen start with win
Wirtz, meanwhile, made his Bundesliga debut in a 4-1 win at Werder Bremen in May 2020, replacing Kai Havertz - who scored twice that day - as Leverkusen's youngest ever player just 16 days past his 17th birthday. Little more than two weeks later he was steering his first top-flight goal beyond Bayern's Manuel Neuer no less, and although he was subsequently overtaken by Borussia Dortmund's Youssoufa Moukoko as the league's youngest scorer, Wirtz is the greenest player ever to reach 10 Bundesliga goals, something he managed 208 days quicker than former Germany superstar Lukas Podolski.
What position do they play?
With Müller, Leon Goretzka and Joshua Kimmich hogging the central midfield positions at Bayern, Musiala was initially something of an impact sub when he began his first-team breakthrough. He managed six Bundesliga goals in 26 league outings in 2020/21 and followed that up with five in 30 in the 2021/22 campaign, with 18 of those appearances from the bench. The Stuttgart-born player's progression to the team's key attacker was complete last term when he made 26 starts in 33 top flight appearances, mostly playing in a central role.
In 2020/21, his first full campaign as a pro, Wirtz lined up on the flanks - invariably the right one - in more than half of his Leverkusen appearances. He subsequently evolved into something of a midfield string-puller, becoming literally central to everything Die Werkself did.
Watch: Jamal Musiala's 2022/23 title-winning goal
"He's a brilliant player," former Germany midfielder Didi Hamann once told FreeSuperTips. "The only thing he lacks is a yard of pace, but I think he makes up for it with the positions he takes up. He's stepped up so far, you can see he's a leader in this team with his performances. I don't think I've seen a better central midfielder at his age in decades."
Wirtz has hit the ground running in this new season and, surrounded by the likes of Leverkusen's new striking sensation Victor Boniface and other new arrivals in Jonas Hofmann, Granit Xhaka and Alejandro Grimaldo, along with fan favourite Jeremie Frimpong, the twinkle-toed attacker has been a major influence while occupying a similar position to Musiala at Bayern.
How prolific are they?
Musiala is now very much a first-team mainstay and his title-winning goal on the last day of 2022/23 earned him legendary status at the Bavarian giants, even at such a tender age.
In that record-extending 11th successive Meisterschale-winning campaign, only Eintracht Frankfurt's Randal Kolo Muani was directly involved in more goals (26) than Bayern's versatile attacker (22). Indeed, with 10 assists, the 20-year-old was the defending champions' top assist provider and with 12 goals he was Bayern's second-best goalscorer after Serge Gnabry.
Watch: Wirtz and Musiala among the Bundesliga's best youngsters
A muscular injury has limited Musiala to 84 minutes this season but looking back to last year, he had an xGoals rating of 8.3 and a finishing efficiency of +3.7, the second best rating at the record champions after Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting.
After recovering from a devastating cruciate ligament injury sustained against his former side Cologne back in March 2022 that kept the Pulheim native sidelined for 265 days, Wirtz reappeared last season to supply six assists under new coach Xabi Alonso. Only current Bayern player Raphael Guerreiro - then at Borussia Dortmund - surpassed that number in the same period in 2023.
In the early days of Bundesliga 2023/24, Wirtz has already collected four goal involvements in four games in all competitions: both scoring and assisting twice. He has only been bettered in terms of sprints by Bayern's Alphonso Davies: the former's 104 sprints just ten short of the Canadian speedster. When it comes to shots on goal, meanwhile, the Leverkusen schemer's impressive 12 falls only behind Hoffenheim's Andrej Kramaric's haul of 17 and that of Davies's 13.
Big game importance
Both players do it at the top level. Wirtz's first Bundesliga goal was against Bayern in his breakout season and he followed that in subsequent campaigns by finding the target against RB Leipzig, Union Berlin and Dortmund (twice) in the Bundesliga, as well scoring a goal in each game against Monaco in last term's UEFA Europa League knockout round play-offs. On the opening day of this season's Bundesliga, Wirtz again found the net against Leipzig in a 3-2 victory for the Werkself.
With Musiala, it would be quicker to list the teams he hasn't scored against. A key member of Bayern's attack not only in the Bundesliga but also in the UEFA Champions League over the past few seasons, he has amassed an incredible 31 goals and 23 assists in 127 games in all competitions. Musiala's 2022/23 title-winning strike against Cologne displayed a level of hunger and fearlessness all too rare in a player of his age.
Both also appear set to play leading roles for Germany in the countdown to a huge summer under Hansi Flick in 2024. For Wirtz, the 2022 FIFA World Cup arrived too soon in terms of his recovery from that aforementioned injury, yet Musiala made three appearances at the finals in Qatar and his senior international tally currently stands at 23, with one goal scored.
Wirtz was included in Germany's recent squad for the friendlies against Japan and France and looks set to be an integral part of the setup as Flick's side host the EUROs in nine months time.
Which player comes out on top when the Bundesliga returns with a Bayern versus Leverkusen encounter that looks set to pulsate on Matchday 4 is anyone's guess, but the finding out will make for intriguing viewing.
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