Having left the Bundesliga full of confidence back in 2020, Timo Werner returns to Germany a player desperate to regain it back.
Sure, he achieved his goal of winning trophies at Chelsea, with a Champions League winners medal to his name. But his time in West London will overall be characterised for his failure to make onside runs, with the Blues also failing to bring out his best performance on a consistent basis.
Now, the 26-year-old returns to RB Leipzig, for a €30m fee that includes bonuses. “I am very happy to be back at RB Leipzig,” he said in a statement. “I had a great time here between 2016 and 2020, when we performed brilliantly as newcomers in the league.
“It was a dignified departure for me to leave the club as the record goalscorer, but that’s in the past now and I’m looking ahead, because both I and the club have developed in the past two years.”
The club’s technical director Christopher Vivell added: “Timo Werner is a fantastic striker who brings another dynamic to our attack thanks to his profile.
“He has a lot of experience on the international stage and knows RB Leipzig very well – he’ll take on a leading role here. We have a brilliant level of variety and depth in our attack and a lot of quality going forward.”
In his first spell at the club, Werner was clearly their most effective attacking threat, tallying 90 goals and 40 assists in 156 appearances. Given his successful history with Die Roten Bullen, it appears as though he’ll be a key figure for them again.
Though he predominantly played as a striker at the Red Bull Arena, the German international often was freely able to roam across the pitch under former head coach Julian Nagelsmann. At times, he would drift out wide, and was given the license to both occupy the half-spaces frequently, or to isolate his marker out wide before speeding off with the ball.
Particularly when playing alongside another forward, whether it was Yussuf Poulsen or Patrick Schick, he tended to drop back to receive the ball and progress it forward, using his speed and dribbling. This was an aspect to his game that wasn’t utilised as much at Chelsea, where he often made runs off the last defender, something he didn’t do regularly at Leipzig.
Despite not being an accurate passer, Werner’s strength in being able to carry the ball forward quickly from the centre circle made him a nightmare for Bundesliga defences. Occupying the space in between the centre-backs and midfield, he caused chaos when dribbling forward.
There’s no doubt that he’ll need to build up his confidence in front of goal. Yet it’s also clear that as well as being a poacher in the box, a fair share of his goals came from dribbling with the ball and manufacturing shots for himself. If given the responsibility to carry the ball into dangerous positions, he has every chance of finding his clinical edge once again.
The addition of the 26-year-old makes Leipzig’s attack, which already includes Christopher Nkunku, André Silva, Dani Olmo, Emil Forsberg, Dominik Szoboszlai and Poulsen, even stronger.
It’s also set to give head coach Domenico Tedesco a regular selection headache. Currently, the 36-year-old tends to favour playing either Olmo or Forsberg behind the pair of Silva and Nkunku. With Silva favoured for providing a physicality most of his attacking teammates can’t match, there are just two places in which Werner fits in.
He could potentially play in a more withdrawn attacking midfield role, but it would certainly require a major adjustment from him to re-adapt to the position. The other option would be to play him in Nkunku’s place. While the German was the preferred player in his first spell at Leipzig, it is hard to see how Tedesco can even think about dropping Nkunku given his outstanding form. Yet the Frenchman’s role is the most similar stylistically to that of Werner’s before he left for Chelsea, making this a fascinating conundrum for their coach to solve.
With this in mind, Leipzig didn’t need to sign Werner. There remain some issues with their squad depth to resolve, chiefly in central-midfield, while they could do with adding defensive cover. However, the possibility of reuniting with their greatest goal scorer ever, was evidently too good to refuse.
As for the player, this was a necessary move that he’ll hope helps to secure his place in Germany’s World Cup squad. Clearly, a change of scenery was needed, and this move could assist in reinvigorating his relatively young career, given he’s still just 26 years old.
Now back in Leipzig, Werner can rebuild his confidence and leave a greater mark on the Bundesliga than the one he left two years ago.