Florian Wirtz: Who is Bayer Leverkusen and Germany's latest wonderkid?
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 has been doing since bursting onto the scene at the BayArena.
bundesliga.com has the scoop on Leverkusen's latest wonderkid…
Club: Bayer Leverkusen
Position: Attacking midfield
Country: Germany (six caps)
Born and raised in Brauweiler, just north of Cologne, Wirtz joined Cologne in 2010, aged seven. He worked his way through the ranks of his local team and was described by the local Kölner Express newspaper as "the best midfielder to come through the club in 30 years".
Watch: All of Wirtz's Bundesliga assists before turning 20
Interest came from Bayern Munich, Borussia Dortmund, RB Leipzig and even English Premier League side Liverpool after Wirtz played a vital role in Cologne winning the U17 Bundesliga in 2019. The youngster 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 ten U17 games that season, including one from the halfway line in a 10-0 win over Wuppertal that shot him to fame domestically. It was one of three he got in what became his final game for the club. Leverkusen came calling in January 2020, and the attacking midfielder made the move up the road to the BayArena. Wirtz was swiftly called up to the first team, and he started in their 4-1 Matchday 26 win at Werder Bremen. In doing so, he became Leverkusen's youngest-ever debutant in May 2020 - and at the time the Bundesliga's third-youngest player ever - at the age of 17 years and 16 days old.
Only 18 days later he went down in history as the youngest person to have scored a Bundesliga goal - a record he would later lose to Youssoufa Moukoko - when he was on target against Bayern in June 2020. He also went on to become the youngest player to reach 50 Bundesliga appearances, although Borussia Dortmund prodigy Moukoko took that record from him too.
Watch: Wirtz's maiden goal against Bayern
Wirtz quickly become an integral part of Leverkusen's squad. The teenager made 29 Bundesliga appearances in 2020/21, scoring five goals and providing as many assists. He went on to become the youngest player to reach double figures for goals in the Bundesliga - getting his 10th at 18 years and 145 days in a game against Mainz. That smashed the previous record held by another Cologne youth product - Lukas Podolski - by over 200 days. Wirtz had seven goals and 10 assists in the 2021/22 Bundesliga, but his season was cut short when he suffered a cruciate ligament injury in March 2022 against Cologne.
But the exciting attacker returned in January 2023 and played like he'd never been away, scoring three goals in the knockout rounds to help Leverkusen to advance to the UEFA Europa League semi-finals.
At international level, Wirtz became the youngest player at the time to line up for Germany's U21 team, making his bow in October 2020 at the age of 17 years and 159 days. His quickfire double in the semi-final win over the Netherlands in June 2021 included the quickest ever goal - after just 29 seconds - in UEFA European U21 Championship history. It was a tournament Germany would go on to win.
Wirtz's maiden senior call-up came in March 2021, but he didn't earn his first cap until September 2021. At just shy of four months after his 18th birthday, he was the third-youngest player to represent Die Mannschaft since 1945.
Watch: Wirtz bounced back from injury in January 2023
Plays a bit like: Julian Brandt
Like former Leverkusen star Brandt, the next Werkself wonderkid really can do it all. He can score from range - as seen with his halfway-line goal - dribble past or through opponents with ease, and he has a particular love for a nutmeg. He's also 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 where Wirtz is concerned. His parents are his agents, and his father is 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
"Florian is just a huge asset for this team through his carefree nature. He's simply an outstanding technician, loves to play, is very creative, has a good shot, runs hard and is quick. He's got a good total package." – Germany head coach Hansi Flick
"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 sporting director Simon Rolfes
"You have to give such special players the possibility to do special things on the pitch." – Leverkusen head coach Xabi Alonso
"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 managing director Rudi Völler
"I'm an attacking player by nature. I like to have my space to be creative, to get forward and to play balls forward. I feel very comfortable in the number 10 position. But I also enjoy playing out wide or further forward as an attacker. I feel I can make use of my strengths in those positions." – Florian Wirtz on his favourite position
How do Wirtz and Musiala compare?
Two of the brightest young players in world football go head-to-head on Matchday 25.
Florian Wirtz vs. Jude Bellingham: Battle of the teens
Teenaged royalty comes to the fore as Leverkusen prince Florian Wirtz faces off against the imperial Jude Bellingham of BVB.
Florian Wirtz raring to go again
Out since March, the 19-year-old is back in action for a Leverkusen team who have sorely missed him this season.