On Saturday, Florian Wirtz became the youngest player in Bundesliga history to score his fifth goal. Aged 17 years, nine months, and three days, Wirtz is also the sixth youngest player to reach five goals in any of Europe’s top five leagues.
For Wirtz, it was another step out of Kai Havertz’s shadow. Havertz, long understood to be one of the biggest talents to be produced in Germany, left Bayer Leverkusen last summer and joined Premier League side Chelsea.
On the surface, it was a significant blow for Leverkusen. Furthermore, Die Werkself did little to re-invest the €80 million earned from the transfer in the squad. As a result, Bayer Leverkusen were an outside bet at betting sides like betway88 to win the title.
This season, however, it appeared that the club could challenge Bayern Munich for the title. That title challenge, however, quickly disappeared after Leverkusen’s bitter 2-1 defeat to the Rekordmeister on Dec. 19.
Wirtz was Leverkusen’s youngest ever Bundesliga player when he made his debut on matchday 26 of the 2019/20 season, then missed two games with a knee injury. Leverkusen struggled in both, drawing Werder Bremen 1-1 and losing 1-0 to Union Berlin.
The 17-year-old was then back to help Leverkusen orchestrate a fantastic 2-1 win over Borussia Dortmund. A result that ended the Black and Yellows championship ambitions as the Dortmund are now considered outsiders only by betway88 to win the title.
Leverkusen’s betway88 odds are not much better at this stage. But at least Die Werkself have the insight track on finishing in the Bundesliga top 4 that would qualify the club for the Champions League next season.
Playing in the Champions League would be another big chapter for Wirtz. It is on Europe’s biggest footballing stage that players get truly discovered and enter the market for bigger things like it was the case for Wirtz’s predecessor Havertz.
Wirtz did feature for Leverkusen in Europe last year. But the now 17-year-old joined the club after Leverkusen were eliminated from the Champions League. The teenager played 68 minutes in the second leg against Rangers after the COVID-19 restart and then watched his colleagues as they went out against Inter Milan.
This season Wirtz has scored two goals and one assist in five Europa League games. Betway88 has Leverkusen as clear-cut favorites as they face Young Boys in the round of 32 of the competitions.
Taking a look at both Havertz and Wirtz this season, how do the two wonderboys stack up against one another, though? What surprises the most is that on Wyscout, the numbers of the two attacking midfielders are surprisingly similar overall, even though the 21-year-old Havertz has three years of experience on Wirtz.
Both have scored seven goals across all competitions. Wirtz has scored 0.32 goals per 90 minutes, and Havertz 0.34 goals per 90 minutes. Wirtz, however, has been more effective in scoring his seven goals from an expected 3.65 goals; Havertz had an xG 6.41 this season.
Wirtz has also been the more efficient shooter. The 17-year-old has seen 55.17% of his shots hit the target, Havertz just 48.39%. Furthermore, Wirtz has created more offense seeing 52.38% of his crosses finding a teammate, Havertz saw just 13.64% of his crosses find the target—they both average about one cross per 90 minutes this season.
Finally, Wirtz had 3.87 successful attacking actions per 90 minutes this season; Havertz managed just 2.77. Wirtz has certainly been ahead of the curve when it comes to his development. But the numbers also have to be viewed with the context that Havertz has struggled with COVID-19 this year and was often falsy utilized by former Chelsea manager Frank Lampard.
Nonetheless, the numbers favor Wirtz. The 17-year-old has been a much quicker Havertz replacement than anticipated and, at a younger age, has a higher ceiling in his development.
Manuel Veth is the editor-in-chief of the Futbolgrad Network and the Area Manager USA at Transfermarkt. He has also been published in the Guardian, Newsweek, Howler, Pro Soccer USA, and several other outlets. Follow him on Twitter: @ManuelVeth