Just three years ago, Timo Werner was the rising star of German football. With 78 goals in 127 appearances for RB Leipzig, he seemed primed to take the Premier League by storm when Chelsea paid over £47m for him.
Now, Tottenham have struck a deal with Leipzig which could see them sign him permanently for just £15m in the summer, should his half-season loan work out.
It’s a big drop-off in valuation but reflective of the difficulties Werner has been through over the past seasons. At 27, he should be in his prime. Instead, he is at a crossroads in his career, needing to re-prove his potential – to himself as much as everybody else.
That big-money switch to Chelsea brought a Champions League triumph but it wasn’t a successful move for Werner personally. 10 goals in 56 games was a miserly return from an Expected Goals total of 18.54 across those two seasons. Big chances were missed, offsides were routine.
He told Sky Sports about how Covid restrictions had left him feeling “a little bit alone” and his form on the pitch didn’t help him to settle.
A return to Leipzig in August 2022 was supposed to reignite the spark but instead an ankle injury before the World Cup in Qatar was another hammer blow. There have been just two Bundesliga goals and two starts across eight appearances for Leipzig this term.
Werner will be desperate for this surprise switch to Tottenham to work out. Will he recapture the goal-scoring form of his early seasons at Leipzig? Sky Germany reporter Philipp Hinze, who covers the German club closely, says while there is optimism of Werner returning to that level, it won’t be easy.
“It’s a big question mark behind the name Timo Werner,” he says.
“Before the move to Chelsea, he was a cold-blooded striker. He was really, really tough. One versus one situation with the goalkeeper, it was a clear goal. The last two years, it wasn’t.
“I think he needs two, three or five good moments for him to be on the level again, but it’s not easy. The Premier League, he knows it, but it’s such a tough league. It’s tougher than the Bundesliga. So it’s a long way, but I think it’s possible.
“The good thing is he knows the Premier League from the Chelsea time. He knows London so he doesn’t need any time to be adapted to the Premier League or to England. But I think his level of self-confidence was very low the past year.
“The beginning of that was his absence from the World Cup in Qatar and now not a good time in Leipzig. Maybe under Ange Postecoglou, if he can have regular playing time, if he can score a goal maybe in the first game… let’s see.”
Heung-Min Son’s international duties at the Asian Cup will give Werner the opportunity to make a fast start. But Postecoglou’s role could be key.
Hinze says the Tottenham boss has already had an impact on Werner, following a phone conversation between the pair. And Werner is a player who needs to feel trusted again after falling down the pecking order at RB Leipzig.
Leipzig’s record-signing Lois Openda, Yussuf Poulsen and Benjamin Sesko have all been preferred to Werner, despite the latter being one of the top earners along with Dani Olmo.
“The talks between Tottenham and Werner, especially with Ange, gave him already more self-confidence and he’s really thrilled [for] the transfer,” says Hinze. “It’s not like the mood that he comes to Tottenham now [is] with the head down. He’s looking forward.
“It’s his last chance to be on the Euros [squad], so he has to be a good player in the second part of the season.”
Werner’s Euros hope is bolstered by the fact Julian Nagelsmann is Germany boss, the man who coached him first time round at Leipzig.
“Nagelsmann knows how good he can be, how cold he can be, how fast he can be, how good he can be during counter-attacks,” says Hinze. “But of course, the Germany squad have really good attackers. Serge Gnabry, Leroy Sane, Kai Havertz… They are guys with good form, a good mood.
“The Germany fans know how good Werner can be as well, but they also know that his form was really, really bad and his self-confidence was bad.”
Postecoglou clearly sees the potential, too. Whether Werner can pick himself up to be the player he once promised to be looks set to be an intriguing storyline in the second half of this Premier League season.
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The winter transfer window is now open and will close at 11pm in England and midnight in Scotland on Thursday 1 February, 2024.
To ensure harmonisation with the major leagues in Europe, the closing dates were set following discussions with the EFL, DFL, Serie A, LaLiga, and LFP, who will all close their summer and winter windows on 1 September and 1 February respectively.
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