By Ultan Corcoran@UltanCorcoran

Bundesliga End of Season Awards: Bayer Leverkusen's Player of the Season

Picking up 5 votes from our team of writers, Florian Wirtz has been nominated as the Bundesliga Player of the Season for newly crowned champions Bayer Leverkusen.

What better way to close out our Bundesliga Player of the Season series than with Bayer Leverkusen. The club that always came up so close through the course of history have etched their name in immortality. Although tipped by many to have a strong season including a return to Champions League football, few could have expected the manner in which it was delivered. Under the tutelage of Xabi Alonso, Die Werkself steamrolled their way to an unbeaten domestic season. An unheard-of act in German footballing history, as everything seemed to click seamlessly in a 34-game campaign with 28 wins, 6 draws, and 0 defeats. The held top spot for 30 of the Bundesliga’s 34 rounds.

This award is almost pointless for this Leverkusen team. Anyone who had the pleasure of watching them or listening to press conferences knew one thing for certain – it was a team effort. Every player and member of staff pulled their weight to ensure Meisterschale glory be it post-game recovery, a 10-minute cameo, or a man of the match display. Yet, one must be separated from the group and that name was <b>Florian Wirtz</b>. The 21-year-old prodigy was simply untameable in Xabi Alonso’s attacking midfield roles to the left or right of a central striker. Coming up with 11 goals and 11 assists in 32 appearances, it’s clear to see how effective Wirtz was over the course of the campaign.

When compared to other attacking midfielders in the global game, Wirtz is almost in a league of his own. According to fbref.com, the Leverkusen playmaker ranks in the 99th-percentile in for Assists per 90 (0.44), Passes Attempted per 90 (69.71) and Progressive Passes per 90 (8.67), highlighting his creative side and willingness to influence games. Despite his tender age Wirtz has never shirked from the workload. The German ranked 9th in the Bundesliga with 886 sprints, 5th with 2459 intensive runs made, and even defensively he placed joint-10th for duels won with 327. In fact, the 21-year-old can feel aggrieved that his goal contributions aren’t higher having hit the post/bar 5 times – the highest of any German top-flight player this campaign.

<b>STANDOUT PERFORMANCE:</b>

It wouldn’t take a genius to select this, but Florian Wirtz’s crowning moment subsequently became Leverkusen’s long-awaited crowning moment too. Matchday 29 against Werder Bremen will live long in the memories of Werkself fans as goals from Victor Boniface and Granit Xhaka put them on the brink of mathematically securing the title. Ironically, Wirtz was a half-time substitute and had been quiet until the 68th-minute. Collecting a pass from Robert Andrich, the youngster turned towards goal. With space to run into Wirtz unleashed a venomous strike from all of 25 yards which dipped over Zetterer and rippled the netting.

Hitting Bremen on the counter, Wirtz timed his run from inside his own half perfectly to latch onto Ezequiel Palacios’ long ball. With the Leverkusen crowd already spilling onto the pitch side, the 21-year-old remained composed to cooly clip the ball beyond the onrushing Bremen shot-stopper. As the clock entered the final minute Grimaldo bisected the visitors’ rearguard once more. Under pressure from Olivier Deman, Wirtz managed to pick out the bottom left corner. A first hat-trick in his senior career secured to accompany the Meistershcale as the Werkself terraces mobbed their young talisman upon the full-time whistle. A 5-0 win to crowning that long awaited glory. 

<b>HONOURABLE MENTIONS:</b>

As previously mentioned each and every member of Xabi Alonso’s squad could have featured in this article. The incredibly tough decision bestowed on our writers offered 2 votes for Granit Xhaka. Many attributed Leverkusen’s glorious season with his hunger, desire, and composure in midfield. With the Bundesliga’s 3rd-highest distance covered (372.2km) it’s clear to see why. The formidable wing-back duo of Alejandro Grimaldo and Jeremie Frimpong secured a vote each. The Spaniard settled in flawlessly on a free transfer from Benfica to finish with the league’s best assist tally of 13 to accompany 10 goals in 33 outings. Meanwhile, Frimpong tagged on 9 goals and 7 assists in 31 matches with blistering pace at 35.96km/hr (10th overall) down the right flank.

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