Leverkusen talent Florian Wirtz: A gift from the gods of football – sport
Florian Wirtz has had better performances in the Bundesliga than on Sunday in the game against FC Bayern. Once he jumped after accepting the ball, another time he let himself be surprised from behind and enabled Munich to counterattack, and in a rough duel with Joshua Kimmich he had to learn painfully that for Kimmich the collegiality in the national team ends where the interests are of Bayern begin. Incidentally, bad passes were not just a few in Wirtz’s 69th Bundesliga appearance.
Xabi Alonso could have substituted his playmaker at half-time and later honestly reported that he was a little tired, but of course the Bayer Leverkusen coach didn’t do that. Just because Wirtz was exceptionally not infallible in every situation due to a lack of breath, Alonso didn’t want to let the evening be spoiled. And even if the game remained unusually difficult for the Rhinelander, who was still only 19, his big moment was to come when he directed a short, inconspicuous pass to Amine Adli, equalizing and the beginning of the end for Bayern initiated.
Earlier this year, Alonso publicly exposed his young student to an outrageous comparison – he brought up Lionel Messi to explain to Florian Wirtz: “Why is Messi so good? Because he knows how and when to play simple passes.” Because it’s “not always about making the most brilliant action, but the best and smartest,” said Alonso: “Florian can do that. That’s why he’s so good.”
These sentences will one day have to be in every Wirtz biography because they are not only true, but also wise. Like Messi, Wirtz apparently possesses a football brain that may be spherical and mottled with black and white. And like Messi, off the pitch he’s shy and reserved rather than extroverted and talkative. The responsible people at DFB have therefore acted wisely when they placed two experienced professionals alongside the teenager from Leverkusen when filling the podium for the obligatory international match press conference on Tuesday. Emre Can and Matthias Ginter flanked their colleagues like bodyguards.
Florian Wirtz is likely to have his fifth international match on Saturday
After having to do without Wirtz during the World Cup, plans Hansi Flick well, to assign a central role to the artistically as well as realistically inclined midfield director. Wirtz has four short international appearances behind him, the most recent being in Skopje in October 2021 in a 4-0 win over North Macedonia. Number five should follow on Saturday in the friendly against Peru. Wirtz doesn’t want to be impressed by the fact that many expectant looks could be directed at him. “I don’t feel any pressure,” he says, but he has also devised a strategy: “I don’t let it get to me so much that anything is transferred to me.”
Leverkusen’s number 27 does not feel any pain or other after-effects of his cruciate ligament rupture either, but he does have a few fitness deficits. There are “still a few percentages I can work on to play really well,” he says. The backlog does not prevent him from great deeds. In addition to the well-known ingenious steep and wonderfully efficient short passes, dribbles have recently also become part of the typical repertoire, according to Hansi Flick, which Wirtz made appear not only as a footballing miracle, but almost as a medical one.
He hasn’t “thought much” about his future, says Wirtz, his father is taking care of his future
Better after the injury than before? “I haven’t heard Hansi say it that way,” says Wirtz, amazed and assured that he has no plans to retrain to become a soloist: “I still have the same idea from my football game,” which means in detail: “Good Giving passes forward, being a goal threat, being important for the team, everything that goes with it.”
Another special feature of this young but already sensational career is that its further planning is still in the hands of father Hans-Joachim. Among other things, he sees his caring task in not confusing the son with stories and temptations from the football business. Florian Wirtz therefore declared himself clueless when he was confronted with FC Barcelona’s rumored interest on Tuesday.
He read that and was “surprised”, “I haven’t heard anything from my father about Barcelona”. And anyway: “To be honest, I haven’t thought much about my future so far.” The future will come anyway and it will be good as long as it’s about football. This player is “a gift” for him, Alonso said. Hansi Flick should also consider this a good formulation.