As he prepares to take on Liverpool this weekend, Timo Werner has been discussing his new nickname, his father's incentives for goalscoring and Toni Rudiger's role in him switching the Bundesliga for Stamford Bridge this summer...
It took about 20 minutes of his English league debut for Timo Werner to use his renowned pace to damaging effect, capitalising on a mistake in possession from Brighton and springing into the box before being upended for a penalty.
That moment of sharpness, in the mind as much as across the turf, perfectly encapsulated the threat the German will pose to Premier League defenders this season – he is always moving, always waiting, always ready to pounce. If he is not thinking one step ahead of his opponents, he will burst away from them in a few strides instead.
Werner’s lightning speed has earned him the nickname ‘Turbo Timo’, a moniker some have suggested underplays the myriad other attributes he possesses as one of the brightest strikers in European football but one that the player himself is happy to take on.
‘I only heard about it recently for the first time,’ he admitted. ‘I was a little bit surprised but Turbo Timo is not the worst nickname for me. Hopefully I can show people that it suits me.
‘The fact that I’m fast is a really good thing because it gives me a lot of opportunities in the game where I can score goals and create chances for the team. Maybe in the future people will say I’m Turbo Timo who scores a lot of goals!’
When he was younger back in Germany, the teenage Werner ran 100 metres in just over 11 seconds (Usain Bolt’s world record is 9.58 seconds), a time he believes his 24-year-old self could probably better. His father used to encourage him to run up steep hills in order to improve his speed and power further.
‘I was 15 or 16 when I last ran 100 metres so hopefully I have got even faster since then,’ Werner said.
‘My father always knew I was fast and he wanted to give me a little more strength in my muscles so he got me to run up some hills. It helped me a lot to work hard because of the fitness and strength you need in football.’
Gunther Schuh, Werner’s father and an amateur footballer himself in his own right, has played a significant part in his son’s journey from Stuttgart to Chelsea via Leipzig. He incentivised goalscoring in junior games by offering pocket money for every goal the young Timo scored, an agreement that switched to every header and left-footed goal given how frequently Schuh was parting with his money.
‘At the beginning of my career when I was nine or 10 years old, I went to a lot of tournaments and he gave me some pocket money for candy for every goal,’ Werner reflects on that time.
‘It wasn’t much but it was good for me to say “today I want to score 10 goals and then I will have 10 euros, which can buy me a lot of candy.” That was my feeling when I was a kid.’
Fast forward several years and Werner was at RB Leipzig working with Julian Nagelsmann, one of the most highly-rated young coaches in Europe and a compatriot who helped him adapt his game so that he could thrive against defences whatever their setup.
‘He gave me a lot of opportunities and helped me improve, to have new ways for when the other team stays deep and there is not much space,' he continued. 'I scored 28 goals in the Bundesliga [last season] and not every team presses high to give me all that space to make runs behind the defenders.
‘There are maybe 10 or 12 teams in the league who play against RB Leipzig and defend deep in their half with the whole team and I scored against them as well so I think I developed myself in this part of playing football a lot. I was the best Timo I could be at Leipzig but it was the right time to try something new and start a new chapter of my career.’
'Maybe in the future people will say I’m Turbo Timo who scores a lot of goals!’
Such adaptability will be useful in the Premier League, where opponents can switch between a high-pressing approach and a deep-defending low block, but Werner believes the onus this season will be on Chelsea to perform like we want to.
‘English football is very fast and there are a lot of different styles of football, sometimes with five or three at the back, sometimes like us with four at the back,’ he explained.
'There are different systems and teams are different in how they play football – a lot of teams press high like Brighton did against us but other teams sit deep in their own half.
‘In the end, it will be down to us and how we play our football because we want to keep the ball, take different positions, rotate, move and create spaces for other players. When we play good, a lot of teams will have to stay deeper.’
Toni Rudiger recently revealed the part he played in convincing Werner to switch to Stamford Bridge, insisting ‘we spoke a lot during the lockdown and once he told me he was interested in coming to England, of course then I did what I had to do.’
Werner has expanded on the nature of those conversations and explained how important it was for him to have a trusted view from the inside before he made his decision.
‘It’s really important to have people who can speak your language and he helped me a lot in my first days here when sometimes I didn’t understand everything if the manager was talking too fast,’ he added.
‘When it was not so clear if I was coming here and I was talking to the manager and members of the club, he was important to me. To have a guy who was inside the team, he could tell me a little bit about the club – how are the people, the staff and the players, how is the feeling in the team, is everybody with each other?
‘He told me it is very good and fun to play here, that it’s a very big club that wants to win and that can win because they have the facilities for that. In this part, he was really important.’