RB Leipzig’s hopes of winning their first ever major trophy in their maiden DFB-Pokal final may rest upon striker Timo Werner. The lighting fast Die Mannschaft international also wants to win the first title of his young career against record champions FC Bayern München on Saturday. Here is an insight into a highly gifted young footballer.
Timo Werner has played against FC Bayern in the DFB-Pokal before. On that occasion, on 25th October 2017 in the Red Bull Arena, Werner and his Leipzig teammates were on the losing side as Die Roten Bullen fell to a heartbreaking penalty shootout. The team managed to earn a lot of plaudits on that evening for taking the match to spot-kicks. However, it was Werner who was the unfortunate player to miss in the shootout. As Sven Ulreich saved his penalty, Sport Bild reported: “Werner misses to send Bayern through.” Ahead of a rematch against the record DFB-Pokal champions on Saturday (20:00 CEST), Werner says: “That was a very disappointing evening. I was certain that I could score and give my team a shot a progressing. We are now light years on from that moment. We battled our way to reach the final in Berlin and now want to finish the job. This would be the crowning moment in our season.” Leipzig have already sealed their second season of Champions League football in just three years since Bundesliga promotion.
There has been a lot of speculation in recent weeks linking Timo Werner with a transfer to Munich this summer. Werner’s contract expires next summer and he has refused to discuss his future in Leipzig as well as refusing to talk about any transfer rumours. Leipzig head coach Ralf Rangnick has been pleased with the striker’s return to top form in recent weeks. “That is all that currently matters.”Looking beyond this weekend’s final, the head coach and sporting director won’t rule out Werner potentially leaving on a free transfer at the end of the 2019/20 season. “However, this certainly wouldn’t be our dream scenario. I would think it would be fair and correct if we were to participate in transfer talks – and some people would say I am a football romantic. We will see in this summer’s transfer window whether he will leave this summer or be scoring goals for us in the Champions League next season.” Alongside returning to Europe’s elite club competition, Leipzig will also have a new head coach in Julian Nagelsmann while Rangnick returns to his role as sporting director.
Ralf Rangnick’s decision to bring Timo Werner to Leipzig from the newly-relegated VfB Stuttgart in 2016 resulted in plenty of online jokes. “Timo Werner turns out his bedroom light and is already in bed by the time the light goes out. If only he knew how to play football too…”Leipzig is where the speedster from Stuttgart moved into his first apartment, fell in love with his girlfriend Paula, became part of the national team, and where he would go on to score 50 goals. Rangnick on facts, fiction and making a home in Leipzig: “Timo already knew how to play when he was in Stuttgart. He was fast and strong in front of goal. Here in Leipzig is where he became even more highly-esteemed. He, like many others, developed into a strong player under us.”
In every one of his youth teams, Timo Werner was far and away the best—faster and more dangerous in front of goal than most others. Former VfB head coach Bruno Labbadia said, “I would have liked to have nominated Timo to the first team when he was just 16, but the regulations didn’t allow me to.” Labbadia helped a 17-year-old Werner make his professional debut on 1st August 2013 against Botew Plowdiw. Stuttgart then parted ways with Labbadia on 26th August. Against Frankfurt on 22nd September 2013, Werner scored his first Bundesliga goal. It was “the best feeling I’d ever had to date. Stuttgart were celebrating their 120th anniversary, so we were wearing throwback retro jerseys. And then there’s me, a 17-year-old kid from Stuttgart, who scores his first-ever goal. Amazing!”
The expectations followed. As well as a crisis for Stuttgart as they lost game after game, with a rotating series of coaches, with Werner being moved from position to position: center forward, left wing, on the bench. Then came the move to Leipzig, where Timo grew into a confident young man. Someone who could pass, get stuck in and push the limits. He slide tackled a teammate at Leipzig’s winter training camp in Portugal, which resulted in a meeting with Ralf Rangnick. He dove against Schalke in 2016 and was awarded a penalty which shouldn’t have been. The football community in German spent weeks talking about it. All in the past, but still a part of Werner’s development.
Timo Werner does not have any tattoos, and he’s had near enough the same haircut for years. "We should draw attention to ourselves on the pitch, not off it," he said, remembering the lessons learnt in his early years under Frieder Schrof and Thomas Albeck, the youth football masterminds. "Back then I learnt what is important, and what distracts you from that," he added. He’s had the same mobile number for many years, which is unusual for a celebrity. You can call him, and he replies to text messages. So, what happened when Joachim Löw rang? "I answered and he just said ‘Löw’, what else was he to say?" Werner is the youngest player of all time to reach 100 appearances in the Bundesliga, he was top scorer at the Confederations Cup and was one of the silver linings in the cloud that was Germany’s World Cup in Russia. He’s currently battling with stars like Serge Gnabry and Leroy Sané for a place in Löw’s squad.
The 23-year-old has made a name for himself, as his advisor had a long time ago: To this day, the name Karlheinz Förster instils fear in the bodies of strikers from the 1980’s. The former VfB Stuttgart and Germany defender has a phenomenal career behind him. The now 60-year-old passes on his words of wisdom to young Timo Werner: "I could not ask for a better friend or advisor," said Werner, and, with the wellbeing of his shins in mind, added following: "I am glad that Karlheinz no longer plays."