Will Kalidou Koulibaly leave Serie A's Napoli?

Koulibaly is one of Europe's finest defenders and the 29-year-old has attracted interest from across Europe.

Bayern Munich are reportedly eyeing the Senegal international.

 

TOP STORY – BAYERN FRONTRUNNERS FOR NAPOLI STAR

Bayern Munich are leading the race to sign Napoli centre-back Kalidou Koulibaly, according to Il Mattino.

Koulibaly has long been linked with a move away from Napoli, though the club's valuation has deterred suitors.

But Koulibaly's asking price has reportedly dropped to €45million (£39m), alerting Bayern, as well as Manchester United and Liverpool.

Bild, however, claims Bundesliga champions Bayern have not made an offer for the Napoli star.

 

ROUND-UP

- Bild reports Manchester City are favourites to sign Erling Haaland if Borussia Dortmund sanction an off-season exit. Haaland has been linked with Real Madrid, Barcelona, Paris Saint-Germain, Juventus, Liverpool, ChelseaUnited and Bayern.

- As City target Haaland, Sport Mediaset says Serie A champions Juve are considering a move for veteran forward Sergio Aguero. The Argentina international is out of contract at season's end.

Barca have been offered Bayer Leverkusen star Edmond Tapsoba, claims Sport. Tapsoba is valued at around €40m.

- Wolves are open to selling Adama Traore at a reduced price, according to the Daily Mail. Barca, Liverpool and City have been linked with Traore previously.

- The Sun reports United are considering the sale of star goalkeeper David de Gea. It comes as Dean Henderson expects to become number one next season. The Transfer Window podcast, meanwhile, says United are seeking a new number one amid links to Milan star Gianluigi Donnarumma.

Chelsea remain interested in RB Leipzig centre-back Ibrahima Konate, according to Bild. Konate is not short of admirers, linked to the likes of United and Arsenal.

United have not contacted Eintracht Frankfurt's Andre Silva as an alternative to Haaland, claims Bild.

Two of the Bundesliga's brightest young stars were on target on Saturday and made history in the process.

Florian Wirtz struck for Bayer Leverkusen in their 5-2 defeat of Stuttgart, while Youssoufa Moukoko scored for Borussia Dortmund in a 2-1 loss at Freiburg.

Wirtz netted Leverkusen's fourth goal in a win that took them fourth, with debutant Demarai Gray adding the fifth.

It was Wirtz's fifth Bundesliga goal and at 17 years, nine months and three days he became the youngest ever player to that mark.

Indeed, no player in Germany's top flight has previously reached five league goals before their 18th birthday.

Wirtz became the youngest scorer in Bundesliga history when he got up and running with a goal against Bayern Munich late last season, then 17 years and 34 days.

But that record was subsequently taken by Moukoko in December, the Dortmund forward 16 years and 28 days old when he hit the net in a 2-1 defeat to Union Berlin.

Moukoko had not scored again until Saturday when another loss by the same scoreline at Freiburg included a consolation strike after replacing Marco Reus on the hour mark.

He consequently became the youngest player to score two Bundesliga goals, getting there when 505 days younger than former record holder Christian Pulisic.

Peter Bosz admitted there were no excuses for Bayer Leverkusen's shock DFB-Pokal defeat at Rot-Weiss Essen, declaring: "We must never lose here."

After holders Bayern Munich were stunned by Holstein Kiel in the previous round, Essen produced another cup shock as they overcame Bundesliga opponents with a 2-1 triumph after extra time on Tuesday.

The first goal of the tie did not arrive until the 105th minute, Leon Bailey's low shot eventually edging dominant Leverkusen - who had 27 attempts and 69.2 per cent of possession - in front.

However, the hosts hit back to level through Oguzhan Kefkir and, just as a penalty shoot-out appeared to be necessary to decide who would progress, Simon Engelmann struck a dramatic winner three minutes from the end.

The upset means that for the second time in as many seasons, a fourth-tier side will be in the quarter-finals of the competition.

Head coach Bosz did offer praise for Bayer's opponents but was critical of his own players for failing to see out the game once they had taken the lead.

"We played against a good team, you have to say that. But we must never lose here," Bosz told Sky Sports Germany.

"We had the chances, especially in the second half. The opportunities were there. Then we take the lead in extra time and can play the game out. Don't give up our position. That's our mistake.

"We are a Bundesliga team and we must never lose here. Never."

It is the sixth time Essen have made it to the last eight in the DFB-Pokal, though this is the first occasion since the 1993-94 season. They have lifted the trophy once before in their history, back in 1953.

"You can't write a better script for a game like this. We're really proud of the boys," coach Christian Neidhart said, according to Kicker.

Bayer Leverkusen have confirmed the signing of winger Demarai Gray from Premier League side Leicester City.

Gray joined Leicester from Birmingham City midway through 2015-16 and went on to help the Foxes to a sensational title triumph that season.

He went on to feature 133 times in the top flight, scoring 10 goals and providing nine assists, but never really established himself as a first-team regular under Brendan Rodgers.

With his contract at Leicester having been set to expire at the end of 2020-21, Gray – who was linked with a number of Premier League clubs – has made the move to Germany.

The 24-year-old made just one league appearance this term, totalling 18 minutes, and joins a Leverkusen side who sit fourth in the Bundesliga.

Leverkusen had looked ready to mount a title challenge this season, but a run of just one win in seven games has seen them drop off the pace.

Gray has only committed to Leverkusen until June 2022 but is confident he will flourish in the Bundesliga – a league in which English talents have fared well in recent years.

Jadon Sancho has become a star at Borussia Dortmund, where Jude Bellingham, another former Birmingham youngster, is also impressing, while Reiss Nelson and Ademola Lookman have shone in loan spells at Hoffenheim and RB Leipzig respectively. Lookman struggled after a permanent move, however.

"I saw Bayer playing attacking football, going forward aggressively and dictating the game with possession," Gray said.

"I'll fit in well. I can and would like to develop myself further here and be successful with this attractive team."

WHERE WILL HE FIT IN?

While Gray has had little chance to show his quality this season, he will bring an extra option to a vibrant, youthful Leverkusen attack and could be vying for a place with Leon Bailey.

After struggling for consistency last season, Bailey has enjoyed something of a resurgence this term, scoring four goals and creating five more in 18 Bundesliga games.

Bailey's 26 chances created rank fourth in Leverkusen's squad, with 17-year-old sensation Florian Wirtz (31), Moussa Diaby and Nadiem Amiri (both 27) ahead of him.

Gray may also find himself going up against former Paris Saint-Germain forward Diaby for a starting berth.

The 21-year-old has created a team-high seven big chances for Leverkusen in the Bundesliga, however, with his rapid pace a major outlet for Peter Bosz's side.

Gray is Leverkusen's third signing of the January window, following defenders Timothy Fosu-Mensah and Jeremie Frimpong, signed from Manchester United and Celtic respectively.

Chelsea are reportedly interested in Borussia Dortmund star Erling Haaland and Bayern Munich defender David Alaba. 

Haaland and Alaba have been linked with moves, with the latter almost certain to leave Bayern when his contract expires at the end of the season. 

Chelsea spent big last year – but they are apparently eyeing the pair.

 

TOP STORY – CHELSEA INTERESTED IN HAALAND AND ALABA

Chelsea are interested in signing Dortmund star Haaland and Bayern defender Alaba ahead of 2021-22, according to Sky Sports.

Real Madrid have been strongly linked with the duo, while Alaba is said to be a target for several other European giants.

Thomas Tuchel has replaced Frank Lampard at the helm for Chelsea, who are eighth in the Premier League.

 

ROUND-UP

- Jesse Lingard could join West Ham. Sky Sports reports they have offered a £1.5million loan fee and to pay Lingard's wages for the rest of the season to land him on loan from Manchester United.

- Amid reports Lucas Torreira could leave Atletico Madrid, where he is on loan from Arsenal, to join Monaco, it seems that may not be the case. Fabrizio Romano reports Monaco are not negotiating for Torreira.

- Bayer Leverkusen are confident of completing a deal for Leicester City midfielder Demarai Gray, according to Sky Sports.

- Struggling for game time at Arsenal, Ainsley Maitland-Niles could make a move. The Athletic reports West Brom are looking at the 23-year-old for a potential loan deal.

Kai Havertz has all the qualities to be "world class" but was always likely to need time to settle in at Chelsea, according to Bayer Leverkusen's sporting director Simon Rolfes.  

The Blues spent a reported £72million (€80m) to bring the Germany international from Leverkusen in September, yet he has so far struggled to justify the hefty price tag.  

The attacking midfielder was one of several big-money signings during a busy close-reason recruitment drive, with compatriot Timo Werner - who arrived from RB Leipzig - also enduring a difficult start to life at Stamford Bridge. 

Havertz has managed five goals and five assists, as well as 23 chances created (1.4 per 90 minutes) and five big chances created (0.3 per 90) in 25 appearances so far in 2020-21.  

For comparison, during his final season at Leverkusen, he registered 18 goals (0.43 per 90), nine assists (0.21 per 90), 84 chances created (1.99 per 90), 20 big chances created (0.47 per 90) from 45 appearances.  

Chelsea's struggles on the pitch this term saw club legend Frank Lampard sacked and replaced by Thomas Tuchel, and Rolfes feels it is unfair to focus purely on Havertz, who he is backing to show his true abilities in the Premier League.

"It's always difficult if you change country and a little bit of a different style. That's the same if we sign players," Rolfes told Stats Perform News. 

"Some players need two days, some guys need half a year. For example, Moussa Diaby needs three-four months to adapt from France, although he was playing for PSG, to adapt to the Bundesliga.  

"You have to have in mind when you sign players, that not everybody is directly from the first day there.  

"I've followed Chelsea a little bit from a distance, but it's not only Kai or Timo Werner struggling a little bit, it's also the team – they expected more from the whole squad.  

"That's not so easy if it's not working in the team and you come in as a new player. It's much easier if the team is working and you step in your best position.  

"That's a process for Kai, to adapt to England and the Premier League. There is no doubt Kai is a fantastic player and has all the ability to play on the world-class level and although it's probably not his best six months, there is no doubt in my opinion."

"There is a spirit in the team but also the club – a dynamic in the last months and last years. That should lead us one day to a title, that's our big goal."

Bayer Leverkusen are one of Germany's biggest clubs, but not since the 1993 DFB-Pokal have they celebrated silverware.

Leverkusen have come close on numerous occasions in the Bundesliga – runners-up in 1997, 1999, 2000, 20002 and 2011, while they also reached the 2002 Champions League final, succumbing to Zinedine Zidane's iconic volley in Glasgow.

There were also runners-up appearances in the DFB-Pokal – 20002, 2009 and 2020. But an exciting and entertaining Leverkusen, even in the post-Kai Havertz era, are on the right track amid Bayern Munich's domestic and European dominance.

Leverkusen sporting director Simon Rolfes told Stats Perform News: "It's not easy if you're playing with the best team in the world – Bayern – but we have made a step forward and quite close to the top. We want to go forward. If it happens this year, fantastic. But we want to proceed and develop the squad, and mentality."

When star Havertz left for Chelsea at the start of the season in a transfer that could rise to €100million, and Kevin Volland joined Monaco, it left a noticeable hole at BayArena, where the pair scored 30 goals across all competitions in 2019-20.

But led by prodigy Florian Wirtz and a thrilling core of players, including Moussa Diaby, Leon Bailey and Nadiem Amiri, Leverkusen are continuing to challenge this term.

Leverkusen are third in the Bundesliga – three points behind RB Leipzig and 10 adrift of reigning champions Bayern – while Peter Bosz's side are preparing to face Young Boys in the Europa League last 32 and Rot-Weiss Essen in the DFB-Pokal round of 16.

With Havertz having departed, Leverkusen have a better goals/game ratio (2.5) through 26 games across all competitions this season, compared to 1.8 in 2019-20. The club have also improved defensively – goals conceded/game (1.0) and expected goals against (1.0) are better than last term (1.3) and (1.4) respectively.

Collecting 32 points, Leverkusen have played the best first half of a Bundesliga season for seven years – they collected 37 points at this stage in 2013-14.

Leverkusen have also exceeded their xG value of 23.1 to almost nine goals (8.9) – only Bayern have a greater margin between goals and xG (13.9). 

"In general yes because it's a chance for other players to develop and take more responsibility in the team and on the pitch," Rolfes, who was appointed in 2018, said when asked if he was always confident following the exits of Havertz and Volland. "We had the view that there could be other players who could take a step forward. The only thing for sure is Havertz is a world-class player, a fantastic guy and player. It's very difficult to replace him, so we said, it's not our direction to find a replacement for Kai because you will never find that replacement.

"We said okay, we will give our own players the chance to grow, this strategy works out very fast. It's always a risk for sure, but we have the confidence in those players to make a step forward, and also the team. If your superstar is gone, everyone knows we have to give more.

"We try to build-up, play offensive with ball possession, straightforward – the kind of style we showed against Borussia Dortmund [2-1 on January 19] is what we want. We want to have the ball, a lot of clubs and trainers are speaking to play without the ball, in Germany it's very popular, but we want to have the ball and want players who want the ball."

The emergence of teenage sensation Wirtz, and development of Diaby, Bailey, Edmond Tapsoba and Amiri, has further highlighted Leverkusen's successful recruitment and philosophy, which has become synonymous with German clubs.

"You have to have a clear strategy," Rolfes, who made almost 400 appearances for Leverkusen between 2005 and 2015, said. "A clear strategy of recruitment but also your playing style. That's really important for players but also the success of a club – both are strongly connected. For your playing style, you have to sign the right players. Then you have the chance that the players adapt quicker and develop better in your system because they feel comfortable in the way of playing. That's crucial.

"We know the Bundesliga, financially solid, but we are not at the top that we can sign every player, we have to develop players. The strategy is to recruit good players for our style and develop them to the top. Some clubs in Germany are quite successful with this."

"We are focusing on that talent and try to find them," he said. "We analyse millions of data with artificial intelligence, to pre-select and be early. It's not because we know players other clubs do not know, maybe 20 years ago, but everything is transparent. But you have to find them a bit quicker, but also clear in your playing style and what can they develop with your training work, in which areas they can develop in weak points. Because we are not signing players where everything is 100 per cent, we know they have weak points, but we know we have to work with them on that."

Data and AI continue to play a huge role in football, with Rolfes adding: "It's very important and because the data will be better and better, it will become much more important in the future because you will get better results. We are working with our own team on scouting, preparing for next matches – just in our daily work."

The likes of Michael Ballack, Toni Kroos, Bernd Leno and Havertz have all made names for themselves at Leverkusen, and Rolfes continued: "We count on the young players [at Leverkusen]. We give them trust and the opportunity to play. For example, Wirtz, we give him the chance to replace Havertz and not sign another star to put in front of him. That is one thing.

"We have a very professional environment, we really take care of the guys – try to develop them, work on the pitch and prepare them for top football. We have an advantage that the media surrounding is not so big here. That's good for young players to have a familiar environment where they feel very comfortable and less stressful, then try to reach the best level on the pitch."

Wirtz is the heir apparent to Havertz, having made an immediate impact after the 17-year-old swapped Cologne for Leverkusen in 2020.

Having made his debut in May 2020, Wirtz became the youngest goalscorer in Bundesliga history the following month, finding the net in a 4-2 defeat to Bayern after coming on as a substitute. Dortmund's Youssoufa Moukoko has since snatched that record.

Among all players with at least 50 dribbles in this season's Bundesliga, only Augsburg's Daniel Caligiuri has a better dribbles success rate (70 per cent) than Wirtz (65 per cent). 

Wirtz is one of 50 players born in 2003 or earlier to appear in Europe's top five leagues this season. Those 50 players have collected a total of 14 goal involvements – with seven of them coming from Wirtz. 

Among all players in Europe's top five leagues born in 2003 or earlier, Wirtz played the most minutes in all competitions this season (1,579) and had the most goal involvements in all comps (11 – six goals and five assists). 

"I saw him for the first time at 13. Now I have to say, he is playing Bundesliga the same way he was playing at 13, 14, 15, 16 – I followed him all the years. I always said okay, that's the player for us, the player for Leverkusen. That was not a surprise for me when he came to us and adapted very quick to our style," former Germany international Rolfes said.

"It was also one argument I said to him during the transfer. I said, 'you are a player for us, you will develop your skills and strengths much better because that's what we need in our style'. His development is fantastic."

Like Havertz, Bailey could be the next Leverkusen star to leave amid constant speculation over his future.

The 23-year-old winger, who has scored four goals and supplied five assists in the 2020-21 Bundesliga so far, has been linked with the likes of Manchester United and Manchester City and Rolfes is unwilling to sell the Jamaican to just any club.

"He's played a fantastic season," Rolfes said. "He struggled a bit last season, but he is performing at a very high level. A good guy in the squad. He has a chance to score goals for sure. A fantastic technique. That's part of lives also, to sell players but we want to sell to the top eight clubs in the world, but not to other clubs. Sometimes a player will leave us. We have a contract with Bailey but we are quite relaxed."

Diaby is another prime example for Leverkusen, where the accelerating Frenchman has 561 sprints in the league this season, more than any other player. 

The former Paris Saint-Germain speedster has been involved in 15 goals in all competitions in this season (in 26 games) – with his next goal involvement the 21-year-old would already reach his value from his first season in Leverkusen (16 in 39 games). 

"When we extended the contract until 2025, that was a really nice Christmas present to extend the contracts of Diaby, Tapsoba and Wirtz," Rolfes said. "[Diaby] is a key player of our squad. His acceleration and speed is outstanding. He has developed on scoring and assisting. To use his acceleration on a top, top level. He has potential to develop further. I'm very, very happy he is part of our squad."

Meanwhile, Timothy Fosu-Mensah could be the latest success story for Leverkusen, who also completed the signing of Netherlands Under-20 international Jeremie Frimpong from Celtic on Wednesday.

After joining Manchester United's academy in 2014, the 23-year-old called time on his Old Trafford stay in January, and Rolfes said: "He is not so young but the last two years, you had the feeling there was more in the box than there was in the last two years. That's interesting for us, to sign that kind of player where you have the feeling they can reach more. We want to help him.

"Timothy is a really good guy, ambitious guy. I like this. He has the ability, the physicality, very fast, a good technique. A lot of fundamental things that are important for our playing style. Then if the mentality and ambition isn't right, then let's work on that to develop you. I'm convinced Timothy can be the next example for our club."

Timothy Fosu-Mensah has joined Bayer Leverkusen from Manchester United on a three-and-a-half-year deal.

The versatile 23-year-old has moved to the Bundesliga side for a fee in the region of €2million (£1.8m).

Leverkusen sporting director described their new signing as "a technically adept, fast and physically strong defender, who can be used both as a right-back and in the middle".

Fosu-Mensah, who has three senior caps for the Netherlands, said: "In the past few days, I've talked a lot with the coach [Peter Bosz], and conversations with Simon Rolfes and Rudi Voller have convinced me there are big prospects at Leverkusen, both for me personally and the team.

"It's going to be really exciting."

Fosu-Mensah joined United's academy in 2014, having spent eight years in the Ajax youth set-up, and went on to make 30 senior appearances in all competitions.

He signed a four-year deal in October 2016, with the option of an extra year, after making his senior debut in February that year under manager Louis van Gaal, playing as a makeshift left-back in a 3-2 Premier League win over Arsenal.

He spent time on loan with Crystal Palace and Fulham but his opportunities in England were curtailed by serious injuries, and his place in Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's squad was usurped by fellow academy graduate Brandon Williams.

Although he was offered a new contract, he reportedly rejected the terms as he felt undervalued by the offer and was keen to move elsewhere to maximise his potential, leaving United keen to sell in January and avoid losing him for nothing at the end of the season.

While Fosu-Mensah departed on Wednesday, new signing Amad Diallo was at the club's training complex for the first time.

The 18-year-old arrived from Atalanta this month after a deal was struck between the clubs in October.

Despite the coronavirus situation, Real Madrid are still looking to make a splash in the transfer market.

Madrid have long been linked with Paris Saint-Germain star Kylian Mbappe.

And if reports are to be believed, the LaLiga champions are planning for the Frenchman.

 

TOP STORY – MADRID WORKING ON MBAPPE MOVE

Real Madrid are working on a plan to sign Paris Saint-Germain forward Kylian Mbappe, according to Tuesday's frontpage of Diario AS.

Mbappe – also linked to Liverpool – has been tipped to join Madrid, though Ligue 1 holders PSG remain committed to trying to re-sign the Frenchman.

Despite the economic fallout caused by coronavirus, Madrid are still looking to prise Mbappe to the Santiago Bernabeu thanks to player sales and revenue generated by the return of fans.

 

ROUND-UP

Bayern Munich have identified RB Leipzig star and centre-back Dayot Upamecano as the player to replace David Alaba, reports Sport 1. Alaba is out of contract at season's end and the Bayern star has been linked to the likes of Madrid, Barcelona, Chelsea and Manchester City. With Alaba heading for an exit, in-demand Upamecano is wanted in Munich. It comes as Chelsea, Manchester United, Liverpool and Barca vie for his signature.

- According to Esporte Interativo, Neymar wants to stay at PSG as the French giants prepare a new contract. Neymar has been linked with a return to Barca.

- Fabrizio Romano says an agreement has been reached between United and Bayer Leverkusen for Timothy Fosu-Mensah to join the Bundesliga side.

Milan are eyeing a move for Chelsea's Fikayo Tomori, reports Sky Sports. Strasbourg defender Mohamed Simakan remains the primary target for the Rossoneri. It comes as Fiorentina close in on Milan full-back Andrea Conti.

Kai Havertz was dubbed the 'Crown Prince of German football' while at Bayer Leverkusen but the Bundesliga club have a new star now: Florian Wirtz.  

While his former club colleague has struggled so far to make an impact at Chelsea, Wirtz - the latest young gem to come through at Leverkusen - is dazzling for Peter Bosz's team, who remain ensconced in the top four despite defeats either side of the mid-season break in Germany's top flight. 

The 17-year-old did not wait long to suggest he could be the heir apparent, either. Having made his debut in May 2020, he became the youngest goalscorer in Bundesliga history the following month, finding the net in a 4-2 defeat to Bayern Munich after coming on as a substitute. Youssoufa Moukoko has since snatched that record away.

This season, Wirtz has gone from the periphery to centre stage, scoring twice and providing four assists in 13 appearances. His transition from promising talent to first-team regular has been swift, leading to comparisons to Havertz, the playmaker who swapped the BayArena for Stamford Bridge.

However, for Bosz, while both players have huge potential, the duo differ in so many ways.

"I never compare players with each other because that is impossible. There is no player like the other," Bosz told Stats Perform News. "You can't compare them. That's not possible.

"I also won't do that with Florian Wirtz, because he has his own style. He is different from Kai Havertz, who is more of a striker. Florian Wirtz, as far as I am concerned, is a midfielder, so you can't compare them.

"Also, you can't compare them physically; Kai is 1.92metres (6ft 3in), Florian is shorter. One is left-footed, the other one right-footed. They both have their own style. But both of them are very good. Both are very talented. Both have a huge career ahead of them.

"And Florian is only 17 years old. What he has shown though in the Bundesliga already is something special."

Wirtz has been a part of a Leverkusen squad that has impressed so far in this campaign, both at home and abroad. 

Despite a first defeat to Bayern Munich before the mid-season pause in Germany, Leverkusen gathered 28 points from their opening 13 league games. Only three times have they managed to collect more points across the same period - and on each of those occasions they went on to finish in the top four.

In the Europa League, Die Werkself finished top of Group C to qualify for the last 32 in style, winning five of their six round-robin fixtures. Having reached the quarter-final stage of the competition last year, when they lost 2-1 to Inter, hopes are high they can go further this time around. 

But while there has been much to please Bosz and Leverkusen's supporters so far, the Dutch coach insists there is still plenty more to come from his squad.

"Everyone still has some space to improve," he said, insisting no player has reached a nine out of 10 yet. "The difference to last year is that we are very consistent now.

"We deliver stable performances. It means that we concede less goals. We stand more compact on the pitch.  

"But we have also lost important players. Kai Havertz went to Chelsea, Kevin Volland to Monaco. I think that our team spirit has improved. This is the biggest step ahead." 

Despite Havertz no longer being around, Leverkusen have been excellent going forward, with champions Bayern the only team to score more in the Bundesliga so far. Their attacking intent has not come at a considerable cost defensively either - only second-placed RB Leipzig have conceded fewer goals.

The emergence of Wirtz has been one of the factors in helping Leverkusen continue to progress as a club, even with those key departures in the previous transfer window.

 

"He's a very talented young player. He has a lot more to improve. But, you know, he's only 17," Leverkusen winger Leon Bailey told Stats Perform News about his talented young team-mate.

"He's still learning. But he has a lot of qualities that a lot of older players don't have yet. And that's something you can see clearly, and this is something that's special. 

"And I think, as the years go by, he will only get better. There is a lot more to come from him, as he understands more and get a lot more experience.  

"I would say he's very smart. He has a lot of quality when he's on the ball. And he has a great passing ability."

Bailey's assessment is backed up by Wirtz's output, with no Leverkusen player having created more chances from open play than his tally of 23. While his passing accuracy is perhaps lower than might be hoped for at 73 per cent, his touches in the opposing box (31) and passes into the final third (55) are examples of his forward thinking when in possession. 

Those risks have reaped their rewards this term too, considering his six goal contributions so far. Bosz clearly has faith in him, as only goalkeeper Lukas Hradecky and Moussa Diaby have played more minutes in the Bundesliga so far. 

Any suggestion of becoming the new Havertz may be wide of the mark, but the future looks bright for Wirtz, the latest jewel to emerge at Leverkusen. 

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