National team: Flick's seventh newcomer: Hopeful Wirtz a space opener

In the classic warm-up game in a circle, Florian Wirtz doesn't have to worry.

National team: Flick's seventh newcomer: Hopeful Wirtz a space opener

In the classic warm-up game in a circle, Florian Wirtz doesn't have to worry. He strokes the ball with his foot. The ball always obeys. He never gets the unpleasant snapping of his fingers in the ear from his sneering colleagues as punishment.

At his first training session with the national team after almost a year and a half on Tuesday in Frankfurt, it is immediately clear why Hansi Flick is so happy about the teenager's return.

"Of course we're all happy that Florian is back on the pitch. And the performances he brought in in Leverkusen were really good," said the national coach at the start of the international season. Flick said he had recently watched Bayer games several times, only on Sunday in Leverkusen's 2-1 win over FC Bayern. Especially to see Wirtz. His long break after the cruciate ligament rupture almost exactly a year ago also hurt Flick. Wirtz could have made a difference at the World Cup in Qatar.

Player in demand

As the Leverkusen midfielder sits on the press podium shortly after training, his gaze shifts to his much more experienced colleagues Matthias Ginter and Emre Can, who are both ten years older and have played for Germany a lot more often. "Me again?" he asks softly. Yes, he should be the first to answer the question about a new axis in the DFB team.

Wirtz does not want to claim this status for himself. "Part of an axis? I don't know. I try to keep accelerating in training, to show my qualities here. Maybe then you can see more in the games," said the super talent.

Flick has chosen Jamal Musiala and him as the faces of hope for a successful European Championship at home in summer 2024. What does that do to the still quite boyish-looking exceptional performer with not-so-broad shoulders? "I don't feel any pressure," Wirtz assured. He wanted to "fit into the team first". It all sounds so calm when Wirtz speaks. Even the question of FC Barcelona's alleged interest does not seem to confuse him. He only found out about it from the media.

Before starting eleven debut

Flick already spoke of the "murmuring" of the fans that Wirtz and Musiala (20) trigger with their technically fine playing style. Since the Bayern professional will be out for the games on Saturday (8.45 p.m. / ZDF) against Peru in Mainz and then in Cologne against Belgium with a torn muscle fiber, they will not be able to give the hoped-for initial spark for a better German international mood. Wirtz thinks that's a shame.

The Leverkusen native was Flick’s first international debut as national coach in September 2021 against Liechtenstein (2-0). In a way, Wirtz is now something like the seventh newcomer in the current Flick squad, in which the national coach called up six players with no international experience. Overall, Wirtz only has 77 joker minutes in the A selection. Against Peru he would be in the starting XI for the first time.

Flick also wants to be careful with him. The serious injury that made him a TV viewer for the Qatar World Cup still requires patience. The knee is free of pain, reports Wirtz. But even in Leverkusen he has never been on the pitch for the entire season in the nine Bundesliga games so far. "We would also do well to take care of him a little. Especially after such a serious injury, it's always good to sit out one or the other time," said Flick.

Space saver for the attacking game

In the training games on the DFB campus, however, Wirtz gets the orange shirt for the expected starting players for the Peru game. The youngest player in the current DFB squad, alongside Kai Havertz, has his radius of action on the half-right behind leaders Niclas Füllkrug and Timo Werner. A quick spin, an opening pass. Wirtz is the space opener, the space saver for the attacking game.

Flick no longer wants to give up that much quality. Not even for the European Championship finals for the U21s this summer, in which Wirtz, like Musiala, is likely to play a year before the big tournament highlight in 2024. "There are players who have grown out of the whole thing a bit. Florian is definitely one of them because he has shown what quality he has with his performances. That's why I plan to have him with us in the summer." flick clear.