Florian Wirtz: Leverkusen star getting back to his best after missing World Cup

2NFCARH February 16, 2023, Rome, Germany: Celebration Goal Florian Wirtz of Bayer Leverkusen 2-1 during the UEFA Europa League, Play-off, 1st leg football match between Bayer Leverkusen and AS Monaco on February 16, 2023 at BayArena in Leverkusen, Germany - Photo Laurent Lairys / DPPI/LiveMedia. (Credit Image: © Laurent Lairys/LPS via ZUMA Press) EDITORIAL USAGE ONLY! Not for Commercial USAGE!

Just over a year ago, one of Germany’s best and brightest young talents had his incredible breakout season ended prematurely due to a torn ACL. We’re talking, of course, about Bayer Leverkusen’s Florian Wirtz.

The timing of the injury was brutal. In March last year, Leverkusen were positioned in third place in the Bundesliga table with eight matches remaining, hoping to beat out Borussia Dortmund as league runners up, while Bayern Munich went on to win their tenth-straight Bundesliga title.

On top of the Bundesliga stakes, Wirtz was also an important part of Germany’s plans for the 2022 FIFA World Cup, after making his international debut earlier in the season for Hansi Flick. But both club and country missed Wirtz in his absence after the knee injury occurred in a 1-0 defeat for Leverkusen against FC Köln.

Since his return in January, Wirtz has given us all a reminder of how he is one of Europe's emerging elite talents and been linked with a move to the Premier League.

Wirtz marked his comeback with an assist in his first start post-rehabilitation in the 2-0 victory over Bochum. Overall, he has contributed two goals and six assists across 13 appearances between the Bundesliga and UEFA Europa League.

It is also unlikely it’s a coincidence that Leverkusen has climbed from 12th to 8th in the Bundesliga table during that span, winning more games since Wirtz’s return (6) than in the 15 games he missed to start the 2022/23 season (5). 

Data facet No. of events PFF grade Positional rank (wings/attacking mid.)
Ball Carries 90 63.6 44/95
Shooting 2 65.2 48/85
Passing 211 71.5 23/96
Crossing 19 67.8 26/89

His Bundesliga grading profile for the 2022/23 season has been very respectable. Passing and crossing have been his two most efficient facets this season, ranking in the top third among all Bundesliga wingers and attacking midfielders.

Ball carries and shots may be two of the areas in which Wirtz is still getting more comfortable as he’s getting further removed from the injury. Taking just two shots in nine league appearances could be an indication that he is not quite ready to take his aggressiveness on the pitch up to his pre-injury level.

Where his 2023 performances have been lacking, his 2021/22 performances delivered. At the young age of 18 years old, Wirtz took no prisoners in flashing as perhaps one of most creative players in the Bundesliga during the 2022 season.

Despite missing the final eight matches of the season with his ACL injury, he scored seven goals and assisted on another ten. His 17 total goal contributions were the most among all teenagers across Europe’s top 5 leagues for the 2021/22 season. His offensive grading profile from last year’s Bundesliga season is simply fantastic as well, and it provides us with a picture of Wirtz’s abilities when fully healthy.

Data facet No. of events PFF grade Positional rank (wings/attacking mid.)
Ball Carries 229 87.3 1/83
Shooting 34 82.3 10/75
Passing 661 85.4 4/84
Crossing 72 69.0 26/77

As Leverkusen will push towards finishing in the top six in the league to bring European cup competition to The BayArena, Florian Wirtz will play a pivotal role in their success.

Die Mannschaft will also be relying on Wirtz in preparation for Euro 2024, a tournament that Germany will be hosting. He’s fresh off featuring for the German squad in both of their recent friendlies against Peru and Belgium.

With the name Wirtz has already made for himself, now at 19 years of age, there may be a number of clubs around Europe looking to add him to their squad this summer. Despite signing a new contract with Leverkusen last summer, valid until 2027, Fabrizio Romano reported that European giants Barcelona, Real Madrid, and Liverpool were all monitoring Wirtz’s status with his current club.

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