When a player breaks a record held by Kai Havertz at Bayer Leverkusen, that's a signal to stand up and take notice. That's exactly what Florian Wirtz did on Matchday 26 of the 2019/20 season against Werder Bremen.
bundesliga.com has the scoop on the league's third-youngest player ever and Leverkusen's latest wonderkid…
Club: Bayer Leverkusen
Position: Attacking midfield
Country: Germany (U17 1 cap)
Born and raised in Brauweiler, just north of Cologne – where he still lives with his family – Wirtz joined Cologne in 2010, aged seven. The growing talent worked his way through the ranks of his local club and was described by the local Kölner Express newspapers as "the best midfielder to come through the club in 30 years".
Interest came from Bayern Munich, Borussia Dortmund, RB Leipzig and even English Premier League side Liverpool after Wirtz played a vital role in Cologne's U17 team winning the German Championship in 2019. Wirtz scored once in the Billy Goats' 5-0 aggregate semi-final win over Bayern, before playing all 80 minutes of the 3-2 win over Dortmund in the final.
Wirtz scored eight goals in 10 U17 games this season, including one from the halfway line in a 10-0 win over Wuppertal in December which shot him to fame domestically - one of three he scored in what became his final game for the club. Leverkusen came calling in January, and the attacking midfielder made the move up the road to the BayArena. After two goals and three assists in his first four games for the U17 team, Wirtz was called up to the first-team for their Matchday 26 match at Werder Bremen, the first after the re-start following the coronavirus pandemic, and started in the 4-1 win. In doing so, Wirtz became Leverkusen's youngest-ever debutant and the Bundesliga's third-youngest player ever, at the age of 17 years and 16 days old.
Plays a bit like: Julian Brandt
Like former Leverkusen star Brandt, the next Leverkusen wonderkid really can do it all. Bundesliga fans will soon see all the best of Wirtz as his time with Peter Bosz's squad continues, and there's a reason that the 17-year-old is already in the fold with the senior squad at Leverkusen.
Wirtz can score from range – as seen with his halfway line goal – dribble past or through opponents with ease, and has a particular love for a nutmeg, as well as being a Brandt-esque passer, with the ability to thread through-balls behind defences whether positioned deeper in midfield, out on a wing or in a No.10 role. The attacking midfielder can take control of a game no matter which position he plays, capable of playing across the line behind a striker or even in a deep-lying playmaker role.
Did you know?
Football is certainly a family affair for the Wirtz's. His parents are his agents, as well as his father being the chairman of SV Grün-Weiß Brauweiller, who Florian played for before joining Cologne.
His oldest sister, Juliane, also plays professional football for Leverkusen having previously come through the ranks at Cologne. She has been playing in the Women's Bundesliga since 2018 when she made her debut at just 16 and has also represented Germany at youth level.
What they’re saying
"I knew a lot of clubs were interested and then we thought that before he went anywhere else, let's try to get him to join us and stay at home. I've known the player since he was 14." – Leverkusen’s head of youth Simon Rolfes
"He was important to us, that’s why I'm making an exception to speak about one player specifically. He played well right from the off, kept the ball well and pushed forward well too. It's always something special when you make a debut, especially when you're 17. All in all, it was a good performance by him, he wasn't nervous." – Leverkusen head coach Peter Bosz on Wirtz's debut vs. Bremen
"We showed Florian the sporting benefits he could gain with us, and certainly also the benefits from the fact that in the past, we gave many young players such as Kai Havertz, Julian Brandt or Benjamin Henrichs the chance to play in the Champions League from an early age.” – Leverkusen sporting director Rudi Völler