SINCE Gareth Bale moved from Spurs to Real Madrid for a then world record €100m fee back in 2013, no fewer than 11 players have been transferred for nine figure sums.

Cristiano Ronaldo, Eden Hazard, Paul Pogba, Ousmane Dembele, Romelu Lukaku, Jack Grealish, Antoine Griezmann, Joao Felix, Philippe Coutinho, Kylian Mbappe and Neymar have all been considered worth such an exorbitant outlay in the past five years. Global recession? What global recession?

But to date no German footballer has joined that elite group. Kai Havertz, the forward who Chelsea snapped up from Bayer Leverkusen for €84m last year, is currently the most expensive export from Deutschland.

That, though, looks set to change if Florian Wirtz, an old Leverkusen team mate of Havertz, continues his meteoric rise and scales the heights that many knowledgeable observers in his homeland are confident he is capable of in the near future.

Wirtz is still just 18 and has only made 61 appearances for Die Werkself. But he has already made quite an impression. Great things are being forecast in a country that has produced a few decent prospects.

He became the youngest Leverkusen player ever to feature in the Bundesliga – beating the record previously held by Havertz – last year when he started against Werder Bremen in the Weserstadion in May last year at the age of 17 years and 15 days.

The following month the attacking midfielder, who can also play as an inverted winger, became the youngest scorer in that league when he netted against Bayern Munich in the BayArena.

Wirtz scored two goals for the German Under-21 side in their European Under-21 Championship semi-final triumph against the Netherlands during the summer and then helped them to beat Portugal in the final and win the tournament for a third time. 

His form for club and country earned him his first call up to the national team in March and he made his international debut in a Qatar 2022 qualifier against Liechtenstein in September. He has since won another three caps.

Hansi Flick, the former Bayern Munich manager who succeeded Joachim Low as Germany coach in August, described Wirtz as a complete player after handing him his debut this season.

“Florian is just a huge asset for this team through his carefreeness,” he said. “He’s simply an outstanding technician, loves to play, is very creative, has a good shot, runs hard and is quick. He’s got a good total package.”

Celtic fans got a glimpse of Havertz’s potential in the Group G match at Parkhead back in September – the teenager pulled all the strings Gerard Seoane’s side and scored the second goal in a resounding 4-0 triumph.

Ange Postecoglou’s team will need to nullify the threat that he poses tomorrow evening if they are to draw or triumph and keep alive their hopes of finishing in the top two in the section and making it through to the last 16 of the competition.

“I love Florian Wirtz,” said Alexander Haubrichs, the sports editor of The Express newspaper in Germany. “If he plays at a high level he is very fast and creative winger. I think he will be football’s next €100m player.

“There were rumours earlier this year that he was going to move to Barcelona. Of course they don’t have the money needed to buy him now. But he has been linked with Bayern Munich and Borussia Dortmund.

“Kai Havertz moved from Leverkusen to Chelsea for about €80m last year and I think Wirtz will be the next player to follow him out of Leverkusen to a big overseas club for a lot of money.

“They are very similar players. Wirtz is always thinking about how to score. He is fantastic on the ball, he is fast, he has good instincts. He makes clever moves on the pitch and can score at any moment from any position.

“He is a very complete for such a young player. He is not a No10 or a No9. I would say he is a No9.5 if that makes sense. He is a great young player There is no doubt he will be at the centre of the next generation of great young German players.”

Seoane, the Swiss coach who joined Leverkusen from Young Boys during the summer, has tried to introduce a new style of play this season and displays and results have been erratic. When they are good they are very good. But when they have failed to shine they have slumped to some disappointing results. 

Wirtz made his return from injury at the weekend and, playing up front alongside Amine Adli in a 4-4-2 formation, helped Leverkusen to record a much-needed 1-0 win over Bochum at home in the Bundesliga. 

Haubrichs knows the wunderkind, despite his tender years and inexperience, is pivotal to his side and believes Callum McGregor and his team mates must starve him of possession and put him under pressure when he has the ball in order to record their first ever competitive victory in Germany.

“Leverkusen very much depend on how he is performing,” he said. “If he plays well they play well, if he doesn’t they don’t. He is a young guy, just 18. Sometimes he plays very well, other times he is not so good. That is typical of young players. But it is a problem for Leverkusen.”

Former Leverkusen and Germany midfielder Simon Rolfes convinced the BayArena club to move for the talented youngster when Wirtz was in the youth set-up at their neighbours Cologne and he has not had cause to regret his recommendation. 

"He's not only a player of promise for the future," said Rolfes. "He is imperative to the club's sporting success in the present. He has everything he needs to become a top Bundesliga player in the next few years."

When he matures and achieves greater consistency, Wirtz, who is under contract until 2026, will bank Leverkusen a sizeable sum. Until that time, he will continue to spearhead their push for a top four Bundesliga spot and a Champions League place next term as well as their endeavours in the Europa League.