Talents of the century. Upcoming world footballers. A gift for football. When experts talk about Florian Wirtz and Jamal Musiala, no superlative seems too high.
The two 20-year-olds who will meet on Saturday (6.30 p.m./Sky) in the league summit between Bayer Leverkusen and FC Bayern Munich are undoubtedly the bearers of hope for German football, which has recently been in crisis.
Maybe for the home European Championships, if national coach Julian Nagelsmann gets the two brilliant offensive wizards together in the team. What he has already tried successfully and, despite his “one less top talent, one more worker” statement, is probably also planning for the EURO. "It would be the only team in the world in which two outstanding footballers could not play together," he said.
That would also surprise Michael Reschke. “Musiala and Wirtz will have a decisive influence on the national team for years to come and lead us back to the top international level,” said the former Bayer and Bayern manager to the “Abendzeitung”. He even told the “kicker”: “These are two talents of the century who both have the chance to be voted world footballer of the year in their careers.” For Lothar Matthäus, the only German world footballer to date, they are definitely “our great hope for the coming decade”. Matthew didn't want to decide which of the two was better: "That would be doing the other person an injustice."
Musiala with more experience
Musiala, who is three months older, has much more to show. He made FC Bayern champions with his goal in the 89th minute of the last game of the preseason in Cologne. It was his fourth national title and he was involved in three of them. The Stuttgart native has already played 25 international matches and was at the World Cup and European Championships. He leads 28-0 in Champions League appearances. “There is nothing better than Jamal, and we want him to remain and become a big face of FC Bayern,” said Bayern sporting director Christoph Freund.
Wirtz has played at least 26 times in the Europa League and was involved in 22 goals. A torn cruciate ligament in March 2022 set him back, but he is playing big this season. He could lead Bayer Leverkusen to their first titles since 1993. And is the defining player.
Wirtz is "a leading player" and "the total identification figure in the team," explained Leverkusen's sports director Simon Rolfes. In addition to his skills as a gambler, which he impressively demonstrated with his “Goal of the Year 2023” after a solo à la Lionel Messi, there are more and more skills as a real game designer. Wirtz has gained enormous maturity, said Rolfes. "He is better at balancing between playing risky and giving the team rhythm." Bayer coach Xabi Alonso, once a world and European champion as a professional, summarized his admiration for Wirtz in a defining sentence: "With Flo we are a better team."
He seems to be coping well with the increasing pressure. Musiala has been used to this for a long time. Although he plays in a larger star ensemble in Munich, he also plays under a larger lens.
Ballack enthusiastic about Wirtz
Wirtz is the “engine of Bayer’s entire upswing,” said Reschke. Musiala, on the other hand, is “the special work of art on the cream cake”. Former national team captain Michael Ballack, who played for both clubs for a long time, analyzes it in a similar way. “Leverkusen is a little more dependent on Wirtz,” he told the German Press Agency. Both games are “sometimes a feast for the eyes”. Rolfes also wouldn't want to put either of them above the other. "These are players who simply fascinate," he said: "They are a gift for German football and every child to have them as a role model."
For Matthäus it is clear: these two always have to play in the national team. “A coach has to be able to integrate them into a team,” he clarified. The question remains: Does this also apply to FC Bayern? Wirtz had already observed this when he was a youth in Cologne and is seen by many as the logical next step. The question is: Does Wirtz even need this? Isn't it more attractive to build Bayer as a leader and become a competitor on an equal footing and then go abroad at some point?
A change in the summer currently seems unlikely, not only because of the contract that runs until 2027. “Playing in the Champions League would be a step that can still be taken in Leverkusen,” said his father and advisor Hans-Joachim Wirtz to “kicker”: “That’s a good perspective.”