Timo Werner has once again emerged as a possible target for Liverpool, and available for around £50 million it would be negligent to not consider a move.
When it comes to Kylian Mbappe, Jadon Sancho, Kai Havertz and the myriad other high-profile targets Liverpool have been linked with of late, it would be a surprise if any club across Europe has not registered interest.
They are top-tier talents with incredible upside currently at sides not seen as among the four or five ‘destination clubs’, and as such are rightly coveted.
Liverpool have been routinely touted as suitors, and sources on Merseyside have repeatedly downplayed talk of a move, with Jurgen Klopp‘s squad settled and the first-choice lineup difficult to improve on.
But with Werner it is different. A release clause in his contract with RB Leipzig, worth around £50.5 million, makes speculation worthwhile.
Most recently, German publication Bild have revived claims of the Reds’ interest, with fruitless negotiations held between player and club last summer now more likely to reach a successful conclusion.
Their headline? ‘It’s getting serious’. And while there should remain doubts over the veracity of their reports, it is certainly a deal that would make sense.
Werner’s Many Pros
The first, obvious advantage of signing Werner is goals: the Germany international is a goal machine, having already struck 25 times in 30 games for Leipzig this season.
Twenty of those have come in 21 outings in the Bundesliga, with only Robert Lewandowski (22), Erling Braut Haaland (23) and Ciro Immobile (25) finding the back of the net more times in their leagues across Europe.
The Reds are certainly not short of goals, with only Man City (65) scoring more than Klopp’s side (60) in the English top flight, and only Atalanta (61) and Paris Saint-Germain (63) doing so in Europe’s top five leagues.
But it is certainly a quality every side can do with more of, and Werner has been scoring consistently since his €10 million switch from Stuttgart to Leipzig in 2016.
Only once has he failed to hit the 20-goal mark in all competitions, that being last season, when he struck 19 times in 37 outings; during that time, only Salah (twice) has done so domestically for the Reds.
Predominantly right-footed, he is also capable of scoring with his left, and has produced a variety of finishes, from powerful drives from range to instinctive efforts on the turn, and composed strikes when one-on-one to poacher’s goals in the six-yard box.
There is are elements of his game that bear comparison to Luis Suarez; the way in which he picks up the ball at pace, holds off defenders and surges towards the goal is reminiscent of the Uruguayan.
He also has a penchant for the spectacular, such as his off-the-cuff half-volley to equalise on the way to a 3-1 win for Leipzig at home to Union Berlin in January.
Werner does not only contribute goals, with the 23-year-old attuned to a high-intensity pressing game at Leipzig that, in transition, thrives due to his linkup play, movement in the channels and ability to find space behind the defence.
He began his career as a winger, before shifting into the focal role in attack later in his career with Leipzig and Germany, and this versatility has aided his all-round game.
His development out wide has honed his dribbling ability, and there are fewer more terrifying sights for Bundesliga defenders than when Werner takes over and moves at speed towards them, with an unpredictability to his approach.
The goals are now complemented with regular assists, with 10 to his name already this season and 37 in total across his 144 appearances for Leipzig to date.
A hat-trick of assists, and a hat-trick of goals, came in an 8-0 thrashing of Mainz in November.
Eradicating the Weaknesses
That victory at the Red Bull Arena highlighted a change of role for Werner under Julian Nagelsmann that will only make him a more attractive prospect for Klopp.
“If you look at what he did today and what he did [in August’s 3-1 win] against Gladbach, I think you get a clear picture of what Timo Werner is all about,” Nagelsmann told reporters after the game.
“In the Gladbach game he also scored three goals, but he worked unbelievably hard defensively. Today, he really shone going forward.”
Werner himself explained in December that he is “playing in a slightly different position as a kind of No. 10” which, in his own words, “helps him a lot.”
“I have a lot of freedom. There are many teams that defend well in the Bundesliga. You often have to wait a long time for your chance and stay patient, but I’ve developed in that regard,” he continued.
“I’m no longer worrying too much about whether I’ll score or not. I just go on the pitch, give everything and hope that I’ll score a goal that will ideally contribute to a win.”
There are increasingly few weaknesses to Werner’s game, and with time on his side at 23, his style is adapting to suit the demands of a modern striker, which are no more apparent than at Liverpool.
Whereas before he would rely upon his partner up front—typically Yussuf Poulsen—to feed off of, the German is honing his approach in a deeper role, with a diversity to his play allowing him to solve a number of problems in the final third.
And while he would previously shoot on sight, often ignoring a better opportunity to tee up a team-mate, now he is keeping his head up more and picking his battles, which is benefiting Leipzig hugely.
He is averaging more shots per 90 minutes in the league (4.5) than any other season for Leipzig, but also more passes (28.6) and chances created (1.6); he is becoming more effective overall.
Nagelsmann’s side are currently locked in a title race with Bayern Munich, with a point separating the two after 21 games—a 0-0 draw between the two last time out depriving either side of the chance to establish breathing space.
Werner & Co on their way to England next week ??
— RB Leipzig English (@RBLeipzig_EN) February 12, 2020
But there is certainly a growing likelihood that this is his last campaign with Leipzig, and the Reds would be remiss to ignore his availability.
Where Would Werner Fit in at Liverpool?
Werner’s expanding versatility would allow him to slot into a number of roles at Liverpool, which could well eliminate any concerns over breaking up the well-oiled trio of Salah, Sadio Mane and Roberto Firmino.
In theory he would replace Xherdan Shaqiri, with the Swiss expected to leave at the end of the season, but his ability would almost demand a first-choice role and prompt a change in system.
There is the prospect of a return to Klopp’s 4-2-3-1, with either Werner or Firmino in the No. 10, effectively combining his new role with Leipzig and his proven impact in a two-man strike partnership:
Werner could also fill in for any of Salah, Mane or Firmino, with his arrival arguably most beneficial for the No. 9, who is undoubtedly indispensable but as a result also Klopp’s most-substituted player.
The option of deploying Werner as a sole striker in the current 4-3-3 would ensure Firmino is at his most effective on a more consistent basis, avoiding any risk of fatigue:
And with the Africa Cup of Nations set to return to January from next year, both Salah and Mane will be unavailable midway through the campaign, at which point Werner could be deployed out wide.
He would be a particularly useful stand-in for Mane at the start of 2021, while the addition of Takumi Minamino on the right would complete a devastating new-look attack:
Werner would far from arrive as a squad player, and at £50.5 million the Reds’ required outlay would be in line with his former Leipzig team-mate Naby Keita, who himself joined under a similar impression.
As Mane did with Keita, and the pair are currently doing with Minamino, the presence of the No. 8 would no doubt aid Werner’s transition on Merseyside.
Similarly, the prospect of working under Klopp, his countryman and undeniably one of the best managers in world football, could not fail to appeal to Werner.