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Timo Werner: 'In Leipzig I was the best Timo I could be. I wanted a new way to grow'

After hearing what people have been calling him, Timo Werner says: “I was a little bit surprised but Turbo Timo is not the worst nickname. Hopefully I can show the nickname suits me. Being fast is a really good thing because it gives me a lot of opportunities to score. It means I can create chances. Maybe people can say Turbo Timo scores a lot of goals.”

Chelsea’s new £47.5m striker looks ready to make a fast start in England. While Werner did not score when he made his debut in the 3-1 win against Brighton on Monday, the German was dangerous at the Amex Stadium and he had a hand in the opening goal when he won a penalty thanks to his speed.

It was easy to see why Frank Lampard devoted so much time to wooing Werner. Chelsea’s manager bombarded the 24-year-old with text messages, called regularly and sent him videos explaining where he would fit into the team. The charm offensive worked. Bayern Munich and Liverpool had fallen behind in the race to sign Werner, who accepted Chelsea’s offer when RB Leipzig agreed to sell him in June.

Werner liked Lampard’s vision. He also listened to the Chelsea and Germany defender Antonio Rüdiger, who played a part in the recruitment drive. “He helped me a lot when I had my first days here and I didn’t understand when the manager spoke fast in English,” Werner says. “Sometimes I don’t get everything. It’s good to have a guy who speaks your language.

“He has a different outlook from the manager. A guy inside the team who can tell me a bit about the team, how the staff are, the teammates, the feeling in the team. Is everybody good with each other? He said it’s fun to play here.”

Rüdiger has been helping Werner adjust to living in London. “Toni gave me some tips about the congestion charge,” he says. “I never knew about it and it was important he helped me, otherwise I would be getting a bill every day.”

Lampard was desperate for more incisiveness up front after a transfer ban prevented him from spending when Eden Hazard joined Real Madrid in the summer of 2019. Chelsea had issues in the creative department last season despite qualifying for the Champions League. Lampard often complained about his team struggling against negative opponents, especially at home. He wanted more quality in the final third and, along with signing Werner, Chelsea have enhanced their options in attacking midfield by signing Kai Havertz from Bayer Leverkusen and Hakim Ziyech from Ajax.

Havertz and Ziyech will provide the ammunition. Since losing Diego Costa in 2017, though, Chelsea have lacked an elite finisher. Tammy Abraham and Olivier Giroud did well last season but more was required. Scoring 34 goals in all competitions in his final season with Leipzig suggests Werner can help Chelsea to become title challengers again.

Werner has always been hungry for goals. When he was younger his exploits would earn a reward from his father. “He would buy candies,” Werner says. “It made me want to score goals. I love scoring goals.”

Werner began his career at VfB Stuttgart before joining Leipzig in 2016. He excelled for the Bundesliga upstarts and big things were expected from him at the 2018 World Cup. But that tournament was disastrous for Germany, who exited in the first round for the first time since 1938. Werner failed to score in each of Germany’s three group games.

His reputation took a dent. So much had been made of Werner’s pace. The teenage Turbo Timo ran the 100m in 11.1sec. He would run up hills with his dad. “The last time I ran 11.1 I was 15 or 16 so hopefully I’m a bit faster,” he says. “My dad always wanted me to be faster and he wanted to give me strength in my muscles. He let me run up some hills. It taught me you have to work hard and the strength and fitness doesn’t come from doing nothing. It wasn’t the hills that gave me my speed, it was me thinking about how you have to train and be fit enough to go past defenders.”

But was he too one-dimensional? This year Hasan Salihamidzic, Bayern Munich’s sporting director, said the German champions decided not to sign Werner last summer because they feared he would struggle against deep defences.

Werner was not happy. Julian Nagelsmann, Leipzig’s brilliant manager, had honed his game. He can play in the tight spaces. He is comfortable in the middle and through the left. “I don’t want to speak about other clubs,” Werner says, switching focus to Nagelsmann’s coaching. “He gave me new ways to go when other teams stay deep and there is not so much space.

“He gave me a lot of things and a lot of different positions where I can improve myself. When I scored 28 goals in the Bundesliga, not every team pressed high and allowed me to make runs behind the defenders. Maybe 10 or 12 teams in the league played deep in their own half against Leipzig and I scored as well.

“He developed me very well up to this point and gave me advice on how I can improve myself and I think I am now a good player in these things. Also the new manager showed me how we can score when we are playing against deep defending teams.”

Werner’s class was obvious when Leipzig reached the quarter-finals of the Champions League at Tottenham’s expense last season. Then came lockdown. The latter stages of the Champions League were moved to August but Werner played no part in Leipzig’s run to the last four after deciding to start training with Chelsea in July. He wanted to hit the ground running and is keen to show Liverpool what they are missing when the Premier League champions visit Stamford Bridge on Sunday afternoon.

“English football is very fast, faster than German football,” he says. “And also a lot of different styles. A lot play with five at the back or three at the back. Some like us are four. A lot of teams press high like Brighton did against us, some defend deep. A lot of teams will stay deep but I think it will be about how we play football. We want to play like a French team, we want to keep the ball.”

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Werner was ready for a new challenge. “In Leipzig I was the best Timo I could be and I learned a lot from the manager. It was the right time to say: ‘OK, I want to try something new, out of Germany.

“I want to go to the Premier League. A lot of massive, strong defenders. To challenge the next part of my life because I made steps coming from Stuttgart. I got to the first team, then went to Leipzig, played for Leipzig for four years.

“This was a really good experience and now I want a new way to grow, to give my game some parts of English football. When I get the strengths of English football I will get more possibilities in my game to do different things.” Liverpool have been warned.

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