One of Germany's brightest footballing talents will miss the remainder of the season after suffering a knee injury on Sunday. Bayer Leverkusen's Florian Wirtz, 18, has torn his anterior cruciate ligament in a defeat.
Florian Wirtz will be sidelined for "several months" according to his club Bayer Leverkusen, after the gifted teenager sustained an anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) tear in his team's 1-0 defeat to Cologne on Sunday.
Wirtz, 18, was stretchered off during the first half of the Bundesliga clash and will certainly miss the rest of Leverkusen's push to regain a Champions League spot and their Europa League campaign.
The German international will also miss his country's friendlies against Israel and the Netherlands later this month while the World Cup in Qatar must also be a doubt, despite the tournament beginning in November.
News of the injury capped a difficult day for Leverkusen, who also saw Jeremie Frimpong and Odilon Kossounou forced off with injury before Kingsley Schindler came off the bench to volley in a second-half winner for Cologne.
Leverkusen's top scorer Patrik Schick is also sidelined for now and the loss dealt Leverkusen's hopes of a top four finish a severe blow. With Borussia Dortmund now eight points clear in second after a 1-0 win over Arminia Bielefeld and a game in hand, only a point now separates Leverkusen in third from RB Leipzig, Freiburg and Hoffenheim.
"All in all it's a bitter afternoon for us with the three injuries and the defeat," said Leverkusen's head coach Gerardo Seoane after the match. "We are extremely disappointed. It could have been better, not only in terms of taking our chances, but also in terms of fighting ability and strength in the duels."
While the defeat and the other injuries are tough to take, the absence of Wirtz for the run-in is enormously significant for both player and club.
Replacing the irreplacable
The Cologne academy product, who joined Leverkusen in 2020 despite an agreement between the two nearby derby rivals and Borussia Mönchengladbach not to poach players off each other, has managed to step smoothly in to Kai Havertz' shoes since his departure to Chelsea in 2019.
Wirtz has scored seven goals and laid on 10 assists in the Bundesliga this year and is a key cog in Leverkusen's often-devastating counterattacking style.
While cruciate ligament injuries are not quite as debilitating as they once were to footballers, Wirtz has a long road ahead in his recovery.