“Finding the next Timo Werner won’t be easy” – RB Leipzig sporting director Ralf Rangnick
Date of Birth: March 6th, 1996 (22 years old)
Club Appearances: 180 (56 goals, 23 assists)
International Appearances: 13 (7 goals)
EiF Ability Rating: 61.5
Next up in the EiF 22Under22 Countdown is Red Bull Leipzig’s blazing German striker Timo Werner. After developing his talents in the VfB Stuttgart academy, he signed with the senior team on his 18th birthday. In the following three seasons, he became the youngest player ever to make 50 Bundesliga appearances. Quickly catching the eye of Leipzig scouts, in 2016 he completed a transfer worth a reported 10 million euros, the largest signing in club history. Since then, he has set the German league on fire, leading Leipzig to a 2nd place finish and a spot in the Champions League. He recently has garnered the attentions of German national team manager Joachim Low, performing well enough to earn his first senior caps.
When watching Werner, two traits immediately separate him from the average striker: his blistering pace and clinical finishing ability. RB Leipzig’s quick, counter-attacking style lends itself perfectly to Werner’s skill set, which allows him optimize his breakaway speed and instinctive nose for goal. As a result, last season Werner led Europe’s top five leagues in counterattack goals.
On the ball, Werner utilizes quick turns and feints to blow by his opponents, taking advantage of even the smallest gap to put away a chance. Werner remains extremely composed in front of goal, combining a sublime first touch and equal ability on both feet to convert over 25% of his shots from the last two seasons. Additionally, his shots per 90 minutes and his shot accuracy have improved each of the last three seasons, which goes to show his continued growth as a goalscorer.
Tactically, Werner is an incredibly versatile player, with the ability to play both centrally and as a winger. Looking at his heat map from the last two seasons, one can see that Werner, despite being known for using his electric pace to press the defensive line offensively and defensively, typically receives the ball further down the pitch than a typical “number 9” striker would. This allows him to get more involved in the build-up play and to mix up his runs, thus making him more difficult for defenders to keep track of.
Any player of Werner’s age tends to have a few areas that need development, and he is no exception. A large issue is that, as a result of his aggressive forward runs off the ball, he tends to be caught offside a large number of time per game, which can be very detrimental to a team trying to establish a rhythm. Also, Werner has a tendency to be too sloppy in his build up play, often needlessly giving up possession via careless passes. Finally, as a slightly smaller central forward (5ft 11in), Werner occasionally lacks the outright strength on the ball to compete with some of the Bundesliga’s physically imposing centre-backs, like Jerome Boateng or Jonathan Tah. All of these holes can be fixed with time, however, and as Werner matures into a more complete player, these weaknesses will become a issues of the past.
Werner’s natural ability and hard work has paved the way for an incredibly successful career, both domestically and internationally. Both Liverpool and Tottenham have expressed serious interest in him, though Leipzig have placed an estimated 60 million Euro transfer fee on their star striker. In addition, as the German era of large, back to the goal poachers such as Miroslav Klose and Mario Gomez comes to an end, Werner adds a whole new dimension to what is already perhaps the most complete team in world football. As his consistency in front of goal already proves, Werner has the tools to be a world class talent, and if he is able to further develop and mature physically and mentally, he could become one of the most prolific attackers on this planet.
Written by Griffin Godsick