Florian Wirtz has offered the clearest indication yet that he wants to stay at Bayer Leverkusen next season, telling CBS Sports that he still has personal goals to accomplish at the Bundesliga giants.
The 20 year old is one of the most highly regarded young footballers in the world with Liverpool, Manchester City, Bayern Munich, Barcelona and Arsenal among his many admirers. In January Wirtz returned from the cruciate ligament rupture that robbed him of a place in Germany's World Cup squad, since then he has registered four goals and eight assists in 20 appearances.
Wirtz is contracted to Leverkusen until 2027 but within the game it is viewed as a matter of when not if one of Europe's top sides make Die Werkself an offer that is too good to refuse. The player himself, however, is in no rush to leave an environment where he has been entrusted with responsibility at the earliest of ages to make his team mates shine.
"I'm here in Leverkusen," Wirtz told CBS Sports in an exclusive interview. "We have a good team. We have a young team. I have a lot of friends. I am just fully concentrated on my tasks here.
"I have some of my own personal goals to accomplish here in Leverkusen so I'm really not looking or thinking about other clubs and instead just proving out there that I can be the best player that I can be in each game and helping the team win games."
Wirtz's return from injury has mirrored the rapid return to form of Leverkusen under manager Xabi Alonso, appointed in October when his new side found themselves moored in the Bundesliga relegation zone. Prior to Friday's loss to local rivals Cologne they had gone unbeaten in 14 games, rising into the top six domestically whilst reaching a Europa League semifinal where they will face Roma.
In his first top division coaching job, Alonso has won praise in Germany and beyond for the way in which he has brought consistency out of a youthful group and a club who have been known for their variability. Perhaps unsurprisingly the 41 year old, a two-time Champions League winner with Liverpool and Real Madrid as well as triple German champion at Bayern Munich, has won the immediate admiration of a squad who would have grown up seeing him at the peak of his powers. It doesn't hurt that he still shows those qualities on the training field.
"He really shows, even in practice, how good he can still play," said Wirtz of his head coach. "He has so much experience on the field as a player, he really knows how to carry himself and give the guidance we need so our team can reach its full potential and so all of us are at full capacity. He's really putting it on himself so that the team is really locked in mentally and focused but also that we are physically there in full as well.
"Initially we really had to focus on stabilizing ourselves defensively. we had to improve that part of the game. So the whole team was focused on defensive work. First and foremost, defend our goal, don't give up goals. That was really the foundation Xabi wanted to build. Then we started to build that up through the middle and then up front with more ideas: how could we break down our opponents on the attacking third, how could we best utilize our strengths."