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 fourth-youngest player ever and Leverkusen's latest wonderkid…
Club: Bayer Leverkusen
Position: Attacking midfield
Country: Germany (U21, two goals in five caps)
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 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, Wirtz 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.
Since then, Wirtz has become an integral part of the first team. In 2020/21, the teenager made 29 Bundesliga appearances, scoring five goals and providing as many assists. After heading home in the 5-2 win over VfB Stuttgart in February 2021, he became the first player in the Bundesliga's history to score five goals before turning 18. At international level, he became the youngest player to line out for the Germany 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.
Plays a bit like: Julian Brandt
Like former Leverkusen star Brandt, the next Leverkusen wonderkid really can do it all. So much so that he was even called up to the Germany senior squad for the first time in March 2021 - when he was still only 17.
Watch: Writz rewrites Bundesliga history
Wirtz 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
"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