|Venue: Celtic Park, Glasgow Date: Thursday, 29 September Time: 20:00 BST|
|Protection: Hear stay on Sportsound and comply with stay textual content commentary on the BBC Sport web site & app|
You may not but be aware of the title, however Germany wonderkid Florian Wirtz is making the form of explosive affect that can not be ignored for lengthy.
The Bayer Leverkusen attacking midfielder – a full worldwide at simply 18 – is rapidly turning into the speak of European soccer and has enriched his status with a slew of information.
After simply over 50 first-team video games, Wirtz is already being touted as a €100m expertise, with Bayern Munich stated to be heading the prolonged checklist of suitors.
Celtic are subsequent in Wirtz’s sights because the Scottish membership try to get off the mark within the Europa League group stage when Leverkusen go to Glasgow on Thursday. Can they tame this supremely gifted teenager?
‘The second Kai Havertz’
The fast progress of Wirtz has made Leverkusen followers rapidly neglect the departure of Kai Havertz, the homegrown famous person who moved to Chelsea for £71m a 12 months in the past on the age of 21.
His departure left a sizeable artistic void, however Wirtz has stuffed it rapidly. Comparisons are inevitable, with Germany legend Lothar Matthaus saying Wirtz “would be the second Havertz, he’ll go the identical method. We’ll see him play for a giant, massive workforce”.
Whereas Havertz rose by means of Leverkusen’s youth system, Wirtz was pinched from Bundesliga rivals Cologne’s academy in January 2020 for round £200,000. Ought to he go away, having prolonged his contract to 2026, the revenue shall be astronomical, with Bayern reportedly quoted 9 figures.
Wirtz’s brief profession thus far is already peppered with milestones, giving a flavour of his precocious skill. He was Leverkusen’s youngest debutant when pitched in to begin the 4-1 Bundesliga win over Werder Bremen in Could final 12 months at 17 years and 15 days – eclipsing Havertz’s file.
Inside 19 days, he had develop into the youngest scorer in Bundesliga historical past, though Borussia Dortmund’s Youssoufa Moukoko has since taken that accolade.
Final season, Wirtz established himself as a first-team common, contributing 5 targets – the primary Bundesliga participant to achieve that mark earlier than turning 18 – and 5 assists in 29 appearances.
He additionally turned the youngest Germany Below-21 participant of all time, and final month made his debut for the complete nationwide squad, coming off the bench in all three World Cup qualifying wins.
It is on the home entrance the place his profession has gone into overdrive, although. In a league the place the likes of Robert Lewandowski and Erling Braut Haaland normally hog the limelight, Wirtz is basking in an unimaginable begin to the season.
His haul of 4 league targets in 5 video games is bettered solely by Bayern’s Lewandowski and Dortmund’s Haaland, whereas Wirtz leads the best way on 4 assists alongside Hoffenheim’s Andre Kramaric.
Wirtz’s newest strike, the winner towards Mainz on Saturday, toppled one other file as he overtook Lukas Podolski because the youngest participant to web 10 Bundesliga targets.
Add in his winner towards Ferencvaros in Leverkusen’s Europa League opener, and Wirtz has netted in 5 straight membership video games for the reason that opening day. All this, and he’s nonetheless greater than seven months shy of his nineteenth birthday. Halting the scary teenager appears to be like fairly the duty for injury-hit and out-of-form Celtic.
The membership’s former full-back Andreas Hinkel, now again house in Germany after ending a two-year stint as Spartak Moscow assistant, is amongst Wirtz’s many admirers however sounded a be aware of warning amid the hype.
“He shall be a key participant for the way forward for Germany,” Hinkel informed BBC Scotland. “Havertz is analogous in that they’ve one thing particular, however Wirtz has the potential to be even higher.
“He’s nonetheless younger and has to show it long run. Prior to now, for instance, Mario Gotze was a younger participant and folks all the time in contrast him with Lionel Messi. Perhaps it was an excessive amount of.
“He went to Bayern Munich however did not attain his prime stage there. Now he is within the Netherlands [with PSV Eindhoven]. It is an instance of how if you happen to get an excessive amount of stress placed on you at a younger age it could possibly hurt your future.”
‘Reshaped Bayer defence offers Celtic hope’
Wirtz is much from the one fear for Celtic. Having completed sixth final time period, Leverkusen have a brand new coach – Swiss Gerardo Seoane took cost after main Younger Boys to a few successive titles – and are second behind Bayern with 4 wins from six video games.
Seoane’s high-tempo attacking fashion has clicked rapidly – his workforce are averaging greater than 2.5 targets per match throughout all competitions.
Czech Republic striker Patrik Schick – the scourge of Scotland at Euro 2020 with a aim from inside his personal half – has carried on that type with 4 league targets, whereas France winger Moussa Diaby has one fewer.
Diaby has latest historical past of dousing a Scottish membership’s Europa League goals, his aim sealing Leverkusen’s 4-1 combination success over Rangers within the final 16 two seasons in the past.
Regardless of their clout, Leverkusen have not gone past the final eight in Europe since shedding the Champions League ultimate to Actual Madrid at Hampden in 2002.
A well-known face, Jeremie Frimpong, returns to Celtic Park with the Germans after leaving Scotland in a £11m deal in January.
He cemented his standing as first-choice right-back by aiding Wirtz’s winner final weekend however is a part of a restructured defence that would give Celtic hope, says Hinkel.
“Leverkusen spend some huge cash however they attempt to discover younger gamers like Wirtz, Diaby and Frimpong, who can nonetheless enhance,” stated the 39-year-old. “It is not unusual for Leverkusen to make a robust begin to the season, though too usually they’re unable to take care of it and fall away.
“They simply have certainly one of greatest 4 squads within the Bundesliga, however try to stabilise the defence. They’d just a few gamers who left in the summertime and there are nonetheless query marks over the brand new defence.
“Towards Leverkusen there’s all the time an opportunity, particularly with the gang at Celtic Park. European nights there are unbelievable and it may be intimidating for the opposition.”