In an exclusive interview, Toni Rudiger discusses the imminent arrival of Timo Werner, a former team-mate at Stuttgart and current one with the German national team, and reveals who the player is like..
It’s been almost seven years since they shared a football field for the first time in Germany and now Toni Rudiger is looking forward to the prospect of reuniting with his compatriot and good friend Timo Werner as the forward prepares to complete a move from RB Leipzig to Chelsea.
It was announced last week that an agreement had been reached between the two clubs and that the 24-year-old had agreed personal terms for a transfer to Stamford Bridge. The deal will be completed next month, subject to the player passing a medical examination.
Rudiger was three years Werner’s senior when the Stuttgart-born striker made history by becoming the youngest player to represent his hometown club in a Europa League qualifier against Botev Plovdiv in August 2013.
Over the following weeks, Werner claimed similar records in the Bundesliga and German Cup before becoming Stuttgart’s youngest-ever goalscorer when he netted against Eintracht Frankfurt. He and Rudiger were team-mates for two seasons before the defender made the switch to Roma, initially on loan and then permanently.
All things considered, there are not many better placed to comment on Werner’s imminent arrival than Rudiger, who spoke exclusively to Chelsea TV in the aftermath of our win at Aston Villa about what his compatriot will bring to the Blues attack.
‘Like everyone, I’m very excited that he’s chosen Chelsea and I’m looking forward to working with him,’ said the defender. ‘I’ve known him since he was 17 and he did very good in the past few years. He can be very important for us.
‘His development was just "wow". In his first season everything was new for him in men’s football but then he started scoring more goals and of course with that comes confidence. He had very good coaches who believed in him and worked with him.’
Rudiger sees similarities between the German international and Leicester City’s Jamie Vardy, who has racked up plenty of Premier League goals in recent seasons, citing his renowned pace and ruthlessness in exploiting mistakes from the opposition.
‘He’s a really big threat to defenders,’ he continued. ‘RB Leipzig is a more counter-attacking team but in terms of attacking the defensive line, he’s similar to Vardy. He has a lot of pace and if the defender makes a mistake and loses the ball, then he goes!’
The pair have played together for the German national team as well as Stuttgart and been in regular contact in recent months. One of the most feared young strikers in Europe, there were plenty of suitors for the forward’s signature and Rudiger revealed the part he played in convincing his friend to join him at the Bridge.
‘I did speak to him before because we have known each other for a long time,’ said Rudiger. ‘We spoke a lot during the lockdown and he told me he was interested in coming to England. Of course then I did my bit, what I had to do.
‘I would say he’s a quiet, humble guy, always ready to do better,’ Rudiger added of Werner’s personality off the pitch. ‘I hope he adapts very quickly when he comes because as we all know this competition is different than others.’