German Florian Wirtz ready to shine at Euro 2024 – DW – 06/13/2024

Deutsche Welle Englisch Fußball Jonathan Harding

When asked why he wears such small shin guards, Florian Wirtz smiles and replies: “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 up with Bayer Leverkusen or Wirtz. The Bundesliga club’s record run ended after 51 games without defeat, with Atalanta beating them in the Europa League final to spoil an otherwise perfect, double-winning season.

Even though Leverkusen’s success was the result of a collective effort, it is clear how decisive Wirtz’s contribution has been this season. His bold move against Qarabag sparked Leverkusen’s return to the Europa League round of 16. His assists helped lead Leverkusen to narrow victories against Heidenheim and Mainz late in the season. His first career hat-trick came in just 45 minutes and helped Leverkusen win the Bundesliga title in style.

“When (Wirtz) is on the pitch, we have a top player in the team,” said Xabi Alonso, Wirtz’s coach at Leverkusen.

The simple stats are impressive: Wirtz finished with 18 goals and 20 assists in all competitions for Leverkusen this season. For context, this total number of goals scored in all competitions in Europe’s top five leagues is higher than Jude Bellingham’s (Real Madrid) and the same as Phil Foden’s (Manchester City) – only Cole Palmer (Chelsea) has it. more apart from the attackers. Wirtz’s assist total is that of all players in Europe’s top five leagues, with teammate Alejandro Grimaldo (left-back) closest to him (19 assists). A closer look at the data shows why Wirtz was able to provide such impressive numbers.

An elite player

According to the football statistics database, Wirtz ranks, across Europe, in the 98th percentile for shot-creating actions, 99th for progressive passes (passes that move the ball towards the opponent’s goal at least 10 meters) and 86th for successful shots. ons (number of defenders dribbled).

Football analyst and tactical expert Jon Mackenzie says that while Wirtz possesses immense technical abilities, the youngster does not rely on those qualities to impact matches. Mackenzie believes it is 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 players capable of understanding the game: Raumdeuter, the space investigator. Wirtz shares this quality of Raumdeuter with the player to whom the word was originally applied: Thomas Müller. Both are capable to read the game in a way that simultaneously creates and exploits space for themselves and their teammates,” Mackenzie told DW.

“But even that phrase underestimates Wirtz’s genius. He has the kind of understanding of space that the game’s true greats have – players like Lionel Messi or Sergio Busquets,” Mackenzie said.

“Perhaps we could describe Wirtz as a Raumversteher – a spatial connoisseur – who uses his ability to read his surroundings to pass the ball through the opposition’s lines of pressure and create dangerous chances for his teammates.”

The individual genius of Florian Wirtz (left) leads to collective successImage: Anke Waelischmiller/Sven Simon/photo alliance


Wirtz started playing football at the age of four near Cologne. His first coach was his father, who is now his agent.

“There were always soccer balls in the house, someone was always kicking the ball, especially my sister Juliane and me,” Wirtz recently told the national newspaper “Süddeutschen Zeitung”. Juliane, who is a year older than her brother Florian, is also a professional footballer who currently plays for Werder Bremen in the Bundesliga. The couple are the youngest of 10 siblings.

“We didn’t have TV to watch, so we played soccer in the living room,” Wirtz said. “If I went to get a plate from the kitchen, I had a ball on my feet.”

A few years later, the ball is still at his feet. What’s more notable is that his most recent season came following an ACL injury that kept him sidelined for most of 2022, which is all the more notable more remarkable. He is a player who looks better after his injury than before, with his sensational solo run and victory against Freiburg in October 2023 perhaps the best goal of his season. Freiburg head coach Christian Streich then admitted: “We can’t defend Florian Wirtz.”

Indeed, at the start of 2024, his first German goal, a superb long-range goal against France, set a new record for the fastest German goal of all time (scored after just seven seconds). Germany head coach Julian Nagelsmann called him, Jamal Musiala and Ilkay Gündogan his “three wizards”.

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

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

Edited by: Matt Pearson

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