THERE'S a reason why rumours of Liverpool’s interest in Timo Werner refuse to quieten: the move would make total sense for player and club.
Jurgen Klopp hasn’t bought from the Bundesliga as often as one might’ve expected since he took charge at Anfield in 2015. And when the former Mainz and Borussia Dortmund manager has plundered from his native land, it hasn’t always worked out – Joel Matip’s Bosman signing has been an unqualified success, but the same certainly can’t be said of Loris Karius, while Ragnar Klavan was a low-cost squad-filler and we’re still waiting to consistently see the best of Naby Keita.
Although nothing is guaranteed, of course, Werner appears such a perfect fit for Klopp’s system that he would be almost certain to vault the low bar set by previous arrivals from Germany.
And Keita, who played with Werner at RB Leipzig, seems to concur, expressing an eagerness to reunite with the dynamic 24-year-old forward. "We played really well together at Leipzig, and he was one of my best mates," Keita said. "It's clear: should he move, then I ask Timo to join us here at Liverpool."
Since joining the upwardly mobile, Red Bull-backed Leipzig from relegated Stuttgart in 2016, Werner has developed into one of the deadliest finishers in Europe. A standout prospect as a teen with Stuttgart, his raw speed often saw him utilised as a winger. But the regular central berth he has locked down at the Red Bull Arena has allowed him to hone his goal-scoring skills, becoming not only ruthless in front of goal but also a savvy mover in the final third, adept and pulling wide and cutting back in to find space in dangerous areas.
Despite the season being frozen due to the Coronavirus pandemic, Werner has already recorded a new single-season high mark for goals, scoring 27 from just 36 all-competitions games, improving on the 21, 21 and 19 of his first three seasons with Leipzig. He has added strings to his bow with each passing season and still has his best years ahead of him.
But it is not the German striker’s scoring prowess alone that makes him an obvious fit for Klopp’s side – Werner gives Liverpool options. After all, even a player of Werner’s pedigree could not expect to waltz into a starting frontline currently made up of Sadio Mane, Roberto Firmino and Mohamed Salah, arguably the most feared front three in world football.
In addition to being able to deputise for any of the established Anfield attacking trio, providing Klopp the chance to rest his star men without fear of a significant qualitative drop-off, Werner’s presence would allow for some tactical tinkering.
Klopp has veered from Liverpool’s primary 4-3-3 set-up to experiment with a 4-2-3-1 shape at times, and even their 4-3-3, in actuality, often works more like a 4-2-3-1 in possession, with Salah pushing high and central from the right flank and Firmino dropping into the No.10 position.
| Timo Werner has started taking English lessons to help him settle quickly ahead of a move to the Premier League, which the RB Leipzig striker is excited about.
Liverpool remain the frontrunners for Werner’s signature.
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— The Anfield Buzz (@TheAnfieldBuzz) April 18, 2020
Adding Werner to the equation, either as the central striker with Firmino in behind or reprising his former left-wing role – albeit with the tricks of inside movement his has learned in recent years – with Mane moving centrally or over to the right, would allow Klopp to tailor his 4-2-3-1 line-up to the demands of any given game.
And Werner’s speed and precision in transition already bear the hallmarks of Liverpool at their frightening, breakneck best. With his contract set to expire in the summer of 2021, there is an acceptance among the Leipzig hierarchy that, if Werner does not commit to an extension imminently, an exit could soon be on the cards.
“Logically, we have to know at the latest after the end of the season because, of course, a club like us cannot afford to go into the final year of Timo Werner’s contract, as we have discussed with him and his advisor, as all parties have the same understanding,” Oliver Mintzlaff, the club’s CEO, said recently.
The striker’s form and consistent, year-on-year improvement, meanwhile, hasn’t caught only Liverpool’s attention – Bayern Munich, Inter and Manchester United are also believed to be keen. When asked about the prospect of a move to Merseysde, though, the way Werner glowingly referred to Klopp’s side has served only to encourage the theory that he is Liverpool-bound.
“Yes I know that Liverpool is the best team in the moment in the world and when you’re linked with the team, it makes me very proud,” he said in February. “In case of that, it’s a pleasure, but I know that in Liverpool play a lot of good players and I have to improve myself to learn much more things to get on this level to play there.”
Werner’s humble appraisal of his readiness for an Anfield switch is at odds with his stellar performances on the field this season; should he join Liverpool when the transfer market reopens, all evidence suggests he’d slot perfectly into place as another versatile, high-calibre weapon in Klopp’s attacking arsenal.