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 (four caps)
Born and raised in Brauweiler, just north of Cologne, 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 newspaper 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 team winning the U17 Bundesliga 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 that season, including one from the halfway line in a 10-0 win over Wuppertal in December that shot him to fame domestically. It was one of three he scored 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 for their Matchday 26 game at Werder Bremen, and started in the 4-1 win. In doing so, he became Leverkusen's youngest-ever debutant - 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 at the time - a record he would later lose to Youssoufa Moukoko - and the only 17-year-old to have netted against Bayern in the league.
Watch: Wirtz's maiden goal against Bayern
Since then, Wirtz has become an integral part of the first team. The teenager made 29 Bundesliga appearances in 2020/21, scoring five goals and providing as many assists. He's gone on to become the youngest player to reach double figures for goals in the Bundesliga, getting his 10th at 18 years and 145 days to smash the previous record held by another Cologne youth product, Lukas Podolski, by over 200 days. He then started the 2021/22 in fine fashion, managing either a goal or an assist (or both) in all of his first nine club appearances in all competitions.
At international level, he 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 - a tournament Germany would go on to win. His maiden senior call-up came in March 2021, but he didn't earn his first cap until September 2021, just shy of four months after his 18th birthday - the third-youngest player to represent Die Mannschaft since 1945.
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.
Watch: Analysis - Wunderkind Florian Wirtz
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 carefreeness. He's simply an outstanding technician, loves to play, 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
"He's an awesome player. Now it's important that he stays grounded in the dressing room. He's doing outstandingly well, though, and is working hard on himself. Maybe he'll have a beer with me today. After all, he's 18 now, so he's allowed to do that." - Leverkusen teammate Lukas Hradecky
"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." – Former 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 managing director Rudi Völler
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