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Football Features

Florian Wirtz: Germany have their own Kevin de Bruyne at Euro 2024 after scintillating Bayer Leverkusen season

By Will Evans

Published: 16:35, 20 June 2024

Florian Wirtz has enjoyed a season to remember with Bayer Leverkusen.

The 21-year-old starred for Die Werkself as they won their first ever Bundesliga title — going the entire domestic campaign without losing a match.

Xabi Alonso’s men also lifted the DFB-Pokal and reached the Europa League final, with Wirtz racking up 18 goals and 19 assists in all competitions.

Now he will be eager to add international silverware to his collection, as hosts Germany bid to win Euro 2024.

Star qualities

Plays like: Kevin De Bruyne

Manchester City are believed to be interested in signing Wirtz to replace Kevin De Bruyne, if the Belgian departs this summer.

And it is not hard to see why Pep Guardiola would view him as the perfect successor to Man City’s creator-in-chief.

Leverkusen’s No.10 is a sublime passer who frequently threads dangerous balls behind opposition defences.

That was encapsulated by Wirtz’s sensational assist during Die Werkself’s 2-1 victory over Heidenheim in February, when his delicate reverse pass bamboozled their back line and put team-mate Amine Adli through on goal.

The Pulheim native is not simply a playmaker, however.

He is a skilful dribbler and a goalscorer with a diverse range of finishes in his locker, as reflected in his remarkable 2023/24 highlights reel.

Wirtz slalomed through Freiburg’s defence to score back in October, before netting with a dinked finish against Frankfurt almost two months later.

The former Koln youngster then showcased further strings to his attacking bow in the second half of the campaign — curling in a pinpoint effort during March’s 3-2 victory over Freiburg, then thundering home a powerful drive to score the first of a hat-trick against Werder Bremen in April.

With impressive technique and work rate, Wirtz already looks to be the complete package at such a young age.

He is a versatile operator, too, who is comfortable featuring out wide, as a central attacking midfielder, in a deeper-lying role or even up front.

There is sure to be plenty of interest in Leverkusen’s star man over the coming months — especially if he lights up the European Championship with Germany.

International pedigree

Euro 2024 is Wirtz’s first major international tournament, after an ACL injury saw him miss out on the 2022 World Cup in Qatar.

He is a key figure this time around, though, having featured in all nine matches since Julian Nagelsmann’s appointment as Germany manager in October last year.

And the 36-year-old tactician was full of praise for Wirtz when discussing his development in late 2023, saying: “I particularly appreciate his [Wirtz’s] creativity and his courage on the ball.

“He is very hard working and runs a lot of kilometres at Leverkusen.

“I think he feels extremely valuable and has arrived at Leverkusen – and with us he is a little more humble in his demeanour but he can be that too.”

For a player who has registered 91 goal contributions in just 152 matches at club level, Wirtz will be keen to add more end product when playing for his country.

He has scored only two goals in 20 appearances, though one of those strikes was the opener in Germany’s 5-1 win over Scotland at Euro 2024. The other saw him score after seven seconds against France in a friendly in March — Germany’s fastest-ever goal.

The talented youngster has contributed four international assists, too, with two of those coming last year in games against Japan and Turkey.

Club season snapshot

Twenty-two of Wirtz’s 37 goal contributions came in the Bundesliga last term, as he amassed 11 goals and 11 assists en route to the title.

Only team-mate Alex Grimaldo (13) accumulated more assists than the VDV player of the season, who posted some eye-catching numbers in 2023/24.

For starters, he created 74 chances across the campaign, which was inside the division’s top 10 players.

That is partly because he attempted 23 through-balls — the most in Germany’s top flight — while attempting (961) and completing (762) a high volume of passes into the final third.

Wirtz’s desire to take players on was also reflected in his figures from Leverkusen’s historic campaign.

He attempted 154 take-ons and completed 79 of them, putting him in the Bundesliga’s best five performers for both metrics.

And his shooting accuracy befits a player who hit double figures for Die Werkself, with a significant 34 shots on target throughout the season.

But the midfielder has made just as significant an impact without the ball — no player won possession more times in the attacking third than his 36 regains.

Wirtz’s impact on all aspects of Leverkusen’s play was crucial to their unprecedented 51-game unbeaten streak across all competitions.

He will be hoping to play just as important a role for Germany at Euro 2024.