BPR LeipzigThe home match against Freiburg on Saturday is likely to attract more interest than usual, and not just because it will be one of the first football matches to be broadcast live worldwide after two months of stasis in five major European leagues.
With Leipzig forward, Timo Werner reportedly edged closer move to Liverpool on that day, Freiburg’s trip to Red Bull Arena will be an opportunity for fans of European champions – and other reported applicants – to take a closer look.
After finding the net 27 times in all competitions this season, Werner has enjoyed the most productive season. And at the age of 24, the former rocket-driven Stuttgart hero seems ready for the next phase of his career. But despite the fast pace in which his career has moved since he joined Leipzig in 2016, the road to the top hasn’t been without bumps.
Born in Bad Cannstatt, in the Stuttgart district where the city’s main soccer club plays, and with football in the genes of his father, Gunter Schuh, who played for local teams Ludwigsburg and Stuttgarter Kickers, Werner seems to have always been destined to become a soccer player. Schuh was a right winger in his playing days, and he helped young Werner hone his athleticism by taking him to practice the penalty of running around the vineyards that cover the hillside east of the city.
Werner joined Stuttgart from the local amateur team TSV Steinhaldenfeld at the age of six and reached the club’s academy rankings at the same time. teammate in Germany Joshua Kimmich (with whom he attended high school) and Serge Gnabry. The scoring exploits in the Stuttgart youth team are the talk of the club.
“Every weekend, the youth department at VfB will produce an internal bulletin on the performance of our various teams,” Frieder Schrof, former head of the Stuttgart youth development, told Kicker (h / t World Football). “Next to Timo’s name, there are always three, four or six parentheses. Even as a child, he is the one who scores the most goals.”
Werner’s appearance inevitably ignites memories in Stuttgart from Die Jungen Wilden (The Young Wild Ones), which is a nickname given to a group of young people who grow up at home – Mario Gomez, Sami Khedira, Serdar Tasci, Christian Gentner and Andreas Beck – who helped push VfB to the Bundesliga title in 2006/07.
Werner made his first team debut in a UEFA Europa League qualifying match against Bulgarian team Botev Plovdiv in August 2013 at the age of 17 years and 148 days, making him the youngest player in club history. While he was unavoidably rough around the edges, his speed burned (he had ran 100 meters in 11.1 seconds) immediately attracts attention.
“You can see from the start that he is very fast in the first few meters,” said Oliver Trust, a German football journalist and book writer. VfB ein Leben lang (VfB for Life). “Of course, he is not at the same level as today because he sometimes cannot unite his speed and resolution. But you can see that he has talent in terms of speed. Expectations are high.”
Werner made 34 first team appearances in his first season as a professional and the record continued to fall. The teenager became Stuttgart’s youngest goalscorer, the youngest player to score two goals in Germany’s top flight and the youngest player to make 50 Bundesliga appearances (a record that has since been broken by Bayer LeverkusenKai Havertz).
But while Werner can hardly ask for the first-team experience of three seasons at the Mercedes-Benz Arena, the broader context is problematic. Stuttgart is experiencing a period of instability that will make Werner play under six head coaches during his time at the club. Die Roten flirted with relegation in each of his first two seasons before giving up in the 2015/16 season.
Werner in StuttgartTHOMAS KIENZLE / Getty Images
Werner may be Stuttgart’s golden boy, but his status does not protect him from criticism during his last campaign at the club. After equalizing at the last minute in a 2-2 draw at Hoffenheim at the start of the season, he succeeded accused by head coach Alexander Zorniger being “so busy blowing kisses into the crowd … that he forgot to focus on scoring the winning goal.”
He finished the campaign after only scoring six goals in 33 league appearances, but where such inconsistencies in young players might have been forgiven in a quieter environment, there was no room for such excitement in struggling Stuttgart.
“He was 17 when he started playing for the pro team, and they were in big trouble,” Trust said. “He is a miraculous boy, and they put all their hopes and hopes on his shoulder. It was too heavy for him. He needed stability and consistency, but Stuttgart could not give it. After a while, he knew he had to leave to survive as a footballer. “
Enter Leipzig. Newly promoted from 2. Bundesliga and passionate about cash owner Red Bull, the club spent € 10 million to secure Werner’s services in June 2016. With fellow Swabian, Ralf Rangnick, as director of sports and commitment to fast, aggressive, counter attacking football already on the spot, the club was very suitable for Werner, who scored 21 goals in all competitions in his first season, triple the previous best tally.
Werner’s goal helped Leipzig to finish second in the Bundesliga, enabling them to qualify for the UEFA Champions League for the first time. But on a personal level it is a very challenging campaign.
Red Bull’s role in Leipzig’s revival in German leagues faced fierce opposition from opposition fans, and when Werner openly dived to win a penalty – which he later printed – in a 2-1 win over Schalke, it made him the No Public Enemy . 1 He finally issued mea culpa but not before initially trying to shirk responsibility for his actions in the post-fight mouth-to-mouth interview. Opposition fans are not interested in forgiving.
“His performances suffered in the weeks that followed because he was ridiculed in each of the opposing stadiums,” recalls Andreas Hunzinger, who reported Leipzig for Kicker. “Mocked loudly. It affected his mentality.”
The international assignment did not give leeway, with Werner constantly and constantly ridiculed by fans in Nuremberg after coming to make his senior competitive debut for Germany in a FIFA World Cup qualifier against San Marino in June 2017. But he proved his value for national goals later That summer at the FIFA Confederations Cup in Russia, tee up Lars Stindl for Germany’s winning goal in the final against Chile and return with the Golden Boot.
Werner struggled to make an impact at the 2018 World CupTF-Images / Getty Images
Although always present in the German group stage disaster at the FIFA World Cup, Werner continues to enjoy the confidence of head coach Joachim Low and has become a central figure in his efforts to shift the team to more counterattacks. footing.
After failing to achieve 20 Bundesliga goals in his second and third campaign in Leipzig, Werner has leveled up this season under new coach Julian Nagelsmann. He had equaled his best numbers for goals (21) and assists (seven) in the league when the season was stopped due to the coronavirus pandemic and had become a much more rounded player, as shown by his performances in the 8-0 demolition of Leipzig. from Mainz in November, when he scored three goals, made three goals and got two more.
“He must learn to combine,” said Hunzinger. “He is getting better tactically and technically, and he is increasing his understanding of the game. I think the biggest improvement is seeing where the space on the field is for him to meet.”
With a two-legged finish and an uninformed finisher, Werner also benefited from playing in a new position under Nagelsmann. Having spent much of his career before this season playing either wide on the left or at the point of attack, he is often placed as a supporting striker behind Yussuf Poulsen or Patrik Schick. That role gave him the freedom to deviate into his chosen territory on the left wing and on the left-in channel while also allowing him to enter the scoring position in the penalty area.
“I played in a slightly different position as number 10,” Werner said. “It really helped me. I have a lot of freedom. You often have to wait a long time for your opportunity and stay patient. But I have developed in that.”
Away from the field, Werner avoids cameras and is considered an educated and level-headed character, having completed high school during his time in Stuttgart at his mother’s insistence, Sabine Werner, whose girl name he adopted. Totally and tattoo-free, the only documented representative is weakness for the donor kebab.
But he might have to get used to the limelight. Because even though the stadium will be empty when he walks out to face Freiburg on Saturday, he will be the center of attention.