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Germany's Florian Wirtz ready to shine at Euro 2024

June 13, 2024

Florian Wirtz had a season to remember with Bayer Leverkusen, winning both the Bundesliga and the German Cup. But what makes the up-and-coming German national team star so good?

Florian Wirtz running with the ball for Germanz
Florian Wirtz is likely to be a key figure for Germany at the EurosImage: Helge Prang/GES/picture alliance

When asked why he wears such small shinpads, Florian Wirtz smiled and said: "I always try to make sure I don't get caught by too many [players]."

In the 2023-24 season, only one team has caught Bayer Leverkusen or Wirtz. The Bundesliga club's record-breaking run came to an end after 51 games without defeat, Atalanta beating them in the Europa League final to spoil an otherwise perfect, double-winning season.

Although Leverkusen's success is a result of a collective effort, it's clear how decisive Wirtz's contributions have been this season. His audacious chip against Qarabag sparked Leverkusen's comeback in the Europa League knockouts. His assists secured Leverkusen wins in narrow wins against Heidenheim and Mainz late in the season. His first career hat trick came in just 45 minutes and helped Leverkusen seal the Bundesliga title in style.

"When [Wirtz] is on the field then we have a top player in the team," said Xabi Alonso, Wirtz coach at Leverkusen.

The simple statistics are impressive — Wirtz finished with 18 goals and 20 assists in all competitions for Leverkusen this season. For context, that total number of goal involvements in all competitions in Europe's top five leagues is higher than Jude Bellingham (Real Madrid) and the same as Phil Foden (Manchester City) — only Cole Palmer (Chelsea) has more outside of strikers. Wirtz's assist tally is the most of all players in Europe's top five leagues, with his teammate Alejandro Grimaldo (a left back) the closest to him (19 assists). A closer look at the data shows why Wirtz has been able to deliver such impressive numbers.

An elite player

According to football statistics database FBref.com, Wirtz is, across Europe, in the 98th percentile for shot-creating actions, 99th for progressive passes (passes that move the ball towards the opposition goal at least 10 yards) and 86th for successful take-ons (number of defenders dribbled past).

Football analyst and tactical expert Jon Mackenzie says that while Wirtz has immense technical ability, the youngster doesn't rely on these qualities to impact games. Mackenzie believes it's Wirtz's knowledge of the game that makes him the most exciting German player of his generation.

"The Germans already have a word to describe the players with an ability to understand the game — Raumdeuter, the investigator of space. Wirtz shares this Raumdeuter quality with the player to whom the word was originally applied: Thomas Müller. Both are able to read the game in such a way as to simultaneously create and exploit space for themselves and their teammates," Mackenzie told DW.

"But even this phrase undersells Wirtz's brilliance. He has the sort of understanding of space that the truly great players of the game have — players like Lionel Messi or Sergio Busquets," said Mackenzie.

"Perhaps we could describe Wirtz as a Raumversteher — an understander of space — who uses his capacity to read his surroundings to move the ball through opposition lines of pressure and create dangerous chances for his teammates."

Leverkusen celebrate the title after beating Werder Bremen
Florian Wirtz's (left) individual brilliance is leading to collective successImage: Anke Waelischmiller/Sven Simon/picture alliance


Wirtz began playing football aged four near Cologne. His first coach was his father, who is today his agent.

"There were always footballs around the house, someone was always kicking the ball around, especially my sister Juliane and I," Wirtz told national paper "Süddeutschen Zeitung" recently. Juliane, who is a year older than her brother Florian, is also a professional footballer who currently players for Werder Bremen in the Bundesliga. The pair are the yongest of 10 siblings.

"We didn't have a television to watch, so we played football in the living room," Wirtz said. "If I went to the kitchen to get a plate, I had a ball at my feet."

Fast forward a few years and the ball is still at his feet. What is more remarkable is that his most recent season came off the back of an ACL injury that kept him out for most of 2022 is all the more remarkable. This is a player that looks better post injury than before, with his sensational solo run and finish against Freiburg in October 2023, perhaps the best goal of his season. Freiburg head coach Christian Streich admitted afterwards: "You cannot defend Florian Wirtz."

Indeed, in early 2024, his first Germany goal, a long-range stunner against France, set a new record for the fastest ever Germany goal (scored after just seven seconds). Germany head coach Julian Nagelsmann called him, Jamal Musiala and Ilkay Gündogan his "three wizards."

If Wirtz can cast his magic throughout the Euros as he aims to lead Germany to glory, he will put himself in contention for the Ballon d'Or come October.

Florian Wirtz, catch him if you can (you can't).

Edited by: Matt Pearson