Florian Wirtz: Who is Germany’s Latest Wunderkind?

There’s no question that Bayer Leverkusen’s unbeaten Bundesliga season and championship took the football world by storm. It was one of the greatest and most surprising stories in recent memory. In the middle of everything was midfielder Florian Wirtz, who played most of the 2023-24 campaign at the tender age of 20. Other than the fact that he finished second on the Leverkusen squad in both goals and assists, what do we know about Wirtz?


Born and raised in Brauweiler, just north of Cologne, Wirtz joined the Cologne football club in 2010 at the age of seven. He progressed through the ranks of his local team with the local newspaper describing him as “the best midfielder to come through the club in 30 years.”


With praise like that, there was soon interest from major clubs like Bayern Munich, Borussia Dortmund, RB Leipzig, and even English Premier League side Liverpool. As a teenager playing in the U17 Bundesliga in 2019, Wirtz scored eight goals in ten U17 games, including a memorable goal from the halfway line in a 10-0 win over Wuppertal.



That game would mark his final appearance with Cologne, as interest from bigger clubs became too much to ignore. Wirtz joined Leverkusen in January 2020 and was quickly promoted to the first team. Even a global pandemic couldn’t stop him, as Wirtz made his debut in the Bundesliga in May 2020, becoming Leverkusen’s youngest player and the Bundesliga’s third-youngest player ever at 17 years and 16 days old.


Just 18 days later, he made history as the youngest player to score a Bundesliga goal. Unfortunately, Wirtz only briefly held that record, which was surpassed by Youssoufa Moukoko in June 2020. Likewise, Wirtz’s record as the youngest player to reach 50 Bundesliga appearances was also broken by Moukoko.


In any event, Wirtz quickly became an integral part of Leverkusen’s squad. During the 2020-21 Bundesliga season, he contributed five goals and five assists in 29 appearances while still playing as a teenager. The following season, Wirtz improved his tally to seven goals and 10 assists before a cruciate ligament injury in March 2022 against his hometown team Cologne cut his season short.


However, Wirtz made a triumphant return in January 2023. He scored three goals for Leverkusen during the Knockout Stage of the Europa League, helping his side reach the semifinals. That led to him being named UEFA’s Young Player of the Season in the Europa League.


That brings us to the 2023-24 season when Wirtz elevated his game further. He emerged as Leverkusen’s best creative force and a reliable finisher with 11 goals and 11 assists. Wirtz and teammate Alejandro Grimaldo were the only Bundesliga players to reach double figures in both categories this past season, making him the obvious pick to win Bundesliga Player of the Year award.



Of course, Wirtz is no longer Germany’s best-kept secret. Everybody knows what he can do and what he brings to the pitch. Wirtz can score from long range but also has the skill to effortlessly dribble past or through opponents. His passing ability has been compared to Julian Brandt, as he makes inch-perfect through balls behind defenses while playing from a deeper position in midfield. At the same time, Wirtz is also capable of playing on the wing or in the no. 10 role. No matter where he plays on the field, this past season is proof that Wirtz has arrived and looks destined to be the next great German attacking player.


Next up for Wirtz is the 2024 Euros. His torn ACL prevented him from being a part of the German squad at the 2022 World Cup. However, this time there is nothing stopping Wirtz from making his debut at a major international tournament. In fact, he figures to play a key role for the German squad barely a month removed from his 21st birthday.


Based on the latest Euro 2024 odds, Germany is among the top favorites in the competition. As host of the Euros, there is a little extra pressure on the German side to do well. After back-to-back Group Stage exits in the last two World Cups and a Round of 16 exit in the last Euros, the pressure is mounting in Germany.


The good news is that Wirtz looks ready to be a difference-maker for his country. During the 2021 U21 Euros, Wirtz scored two goals in the first eight minutes of the semifinals to lead Germany to a 2-1 win over the Netherlands. The German side would go on to win the final, giving Wirtz a taste of what it feels like to be a champion of Europe. Of course, he also knows what it’s like to win a Bundesliga title after Leverkusen’s amazing season. 


Based on everything he’s accomplished in his young career, all signs point to Wirtz being able to leave his mark on the 2024 Euros. The only catch is that he no longer has the element of surprise. Everybody knows who he is; that just doesn’t mean they’ll be able to stop Germany’s latest wunderkind.