It feels a bit like coming home: As he re-connects with the RB Leipzig team, his circle of friends and good memories, striker Timo Werner feels he has grown and matured during his two years with Chelsea and is ready to pursue ambitious goals with RB Leipzig and beyond.
How nice is it to be back here in Leipzig? Can you take us into your emotional world?
“Yes, of course, I think that coming back to Leipzig was something really special for me. I knew a lot of people were still here over the two years. It feels a bit like coming home. Over the last weeks now, it was a lot of fun to be here, with the guys and with the new coaching team. Overall, it was a very good two weeks.”
Which person were you most looking forward to seeing?
“I still have friends in the team, Konrad Laimer. He is still here. One of my best friends. I was really happy to play with him. There are other people around the team with whom I stayed in contact over the past two years. It was fun to see them again and to work with them again. Also, the city. The people in the city who I have known for the past five or six years and have become good friends of mine. It was very nice to see them all again and hopefully, more often now.”
When you think back to your first time in Leipzig, which moment has stuck with you the most? Which RB moment makes you go into raptures?
“Oh, it is hard to say because over the four years that I have been here, we had a lot of special moments. We came up from the second division. We reached the Champions League in the first year. We were like – I am not sure how to say it – spring champion? If you can say something like that. We had very special moments like against Tottenham in the Champions League semi-final. Unfortunately, I couldn’t play in this game, but there wasn’t one special moment but multiple over the four years. That was also a reason because the time here was always in my mind with good memories. It was the main reason why I decided to play for Leipzig again.”
Timo Werner’s return to the Bundesliga
Timo Werner scored on his Leipzig return in August 2022 but his 10-man team twice gave away the lead to settle for a 2-2 draw against Cologne.
You won the Champions League with Chelsea and during this time in England you have certainly matured as a person and as a sportsman. What do you think the “new Timo Werner” can do better than the Timo Werner of 2020?
“Of course, more titles than I left with. Of course, I am getting older. I have the experience of two years in the Premier League. I think it was also a special thing for me to live in another country, to speak another language, to be with new guys, another culture. In my development, it helped me a lot. To grow as a person. To not be this young boy who came from Leipzig at the age of 22 or 23, 24. To become a man over the last years who got a lot of experience. In a good way but also in a bad way. The most important thing was to learn another language. I can speak English now. Not very good but proper English. It is ok. That was important for me but also the titles. We won the Champions League. In the end, the last two years made me a better player and a more mature person.”
What are your goals with RB Leipzig this season and also in the future?
“I think, to come here and to say “I want to win the Champions League with Leipzig” is a bit too much, at the moment, but we have a very good squad. We can play a bigger role in every competition. Of course, the start of the season was not the best, so far, but I think we still have the quality and ability to be very good in the league. After three games, nothing is lost but now, we have to start winning. Also in the cup, last year they won it so, even in the cup, we are one of the favourites. Hopefully, we can go the same way as last year. In the Champions League, it is difficult, of course. You have to be lucky with the draw. That is the first thing. When we won the Champions League with Chelsea, we also had a bit of luck. With an easy group and one or two games that were not the best teams at that moment. You need a bit of luck but over two games, we are a very good team. We can play at the high level very well and I think we can be a very dangerous threat for other teams.”
You are RB Leipzig’s record goal scorer! Of course, there is also a certain expectation after your return. How do you deal with that? To what extent do you feel it?
“I mean, of course, it is something special for me to be top scorer of a club, such a big club. It is not pressure. It is more like being happy to continue this way; how I ended. To even get more goals and to expand this record. It is not pressure, but an aim. Something I really love to do because goal-scoring is what I love to do. What all strikers love to do. I want to continue this record and even make it better.”
Now that Robert Lewandowski has left the league, the permanent subscription to the goal scorer’s crown is of course gone. How do you see your chances of winning this award yourself? Is that perhaps also one of your goals?
“What does ‘chances’ mean? I think, every striker wants to score as many goals as he can. With the transfer of Lewandowski, it may be a bit easier now to win this trophy but, in the end, we have so many good strikers in the Bundesliga. We have so many good teams. Over the last two years since I have left, more goals are scored by teams in the game, in my opinion. The goals-scorers get more and more so it is still very hard. Me, as a striker, I want to score as many goals as I can. If I reach this aim or this trophy at the end, it would be something outstanding for me, but it is not my main aim, saying I want to go through the season to win this. I came here to get over the last two years. I think it would be too much to come here and directly say “I want to win this” but you do have to have it at the back of your mind, otherwise, you would not be a good striker.”
After your arrival, the first Bundesliga goal also came quickly. What went through your mind afterwards? To what extent was that also something special for you?
“Of course, a good start. Coming here and scoring in my first game, my first goal for my old team released a bit of pressure because, after I came here, it was a lot. From the media and from the outside, from the team, it was a big thing for me, but it seemed like that for the others as well, so the pressure was really high, so I was, not happy but I think it went a good way to release the pressure I had at that time.”
What specifically have you missed from the Bundesliga?
“A lot of things. The stadiums in Germany are very good. I think we have some of the best stadiums in the world. I think the way we play football here is more tactical than in the Premier League. It is more open in the Premier League. Here it is more tactical. You can have really good tactical solutions against teams. When you train something, you can see it in the game, how it works. That is really cool to see that that works. Also, the atmosphere in the stadiums is different to the Premier League but also very special. The Bundesliga is a very good league, for me.”
In just over 2 weeks, the next top match will be against BVB. Under which heading would you put this game?
“Hard to say. Hopefully, for us, we will have more points than now. It will be a top game; a special game for everyone. Two of the best teams in Germany play against each other. We want to show – in this game so early in the season – that we can compete with those teams and can be better than those teams.”
You already know Christopher Nkunku from your first time in Leipzig. Last season he rose to become the absolute top star and player of the season. How has he changed in that time from your point of view?
“Yes, like you said, he is a more mature player now. He is more flexible in his game. When I left, he was sloppier. Not sloppy but he sometimes had two ideas. Now, he is very direct to goal. He knows exactly what to do in each situation. It is very impressive, the way he has developed over the last two years. I am very happy to play with him and have a very good player next to me because we need this in the Bundesliga. We need this at Leipzig: having such good players. It is fun to play next to him.”
You are also involved in social causes through Common Goal. What does that mean to you?
“It is very important to me. We are in a very good situation in football. We earn a lot of money. It is very easy to give something back to the people who also love football because, what we do with Common Goal is exactly about this: bringing kids to football, away from the streets, where they can do silly things or strange things. Helping with football or their education to give them – not only hope – but the chance of becoming something. That is why it is important for me and why I am very into it with Common Goal and with helping other kids or other people with the money.”
During the summer break, you went to watch baseball with Konrad Laimer at the Dodgers. What excited you about that?
“It was my first time there. For me, it is not the most interesting game but to be around there and feeling that atmosphere is something very – it is a nice atmosphere there because the Americans, they created a feeling that is not only about going to the game like we do in Germany or in Europe where it is 90 minutes of football and then you leave. Over four or five hours, it is a big, big event. You can leave the pitch. You can go have some lunch or something or in the evening, some dinner and then you come back and watch the game again so it is really, really cool to see how the culture works in their sports and also, watching it on TV, it looks slow – how they throw the ball, for example – but when you are next to the people on the pitch and when you see how fast it actually is in real, it is very impressive. I liked being there a lot and having had the chance to watch a game there.”
One of the reasons for the return is also match practice with a view to the World Cup. How do you assess the chances of the German national team at the upcoming World Cup?
“Of course, it played a big part in my decision because I want to play in the World Cup, and I want to be – not just play it – but I want to be as fit as possible and I want to have the game practice for the World Cup. You only have it two or three times in your career and it is the best thing you can play. Of course, it played a big part. I think we have a very good team and that we will be very competitive in the World Cup. We have a strong group we have to go through but for us, where we are at the moment, it is better to have a hard group to be on the pitch from the first game and feel the pressure. If we lose and not give 100%, it could already be the end of the World Cup so I think that this pressure will help us to be at 100% throughout the entire competition and to give everything. If we bring all of what we can do onto the pitch, I think we have good chances.”
What can you personally improve in terms of sport with a view to the World Cup?
“Of course, the two years in England helped me a lot in terms of improving my physical game. That helped me to become a better player. Now, I can also have a look at my tactical abilities, to get better at them. What I missed a bit in England was finding the back of the net. Coming back to my old strengths and being clinical in finishing and in front of goal in the box is part of my development at Leipzig. To find my old strengths in these things as well.”
How do you rate Germany’s group opponents AND who will win the title in the end?
“Hopefully, us. We don’t want to go to the World Cup to be one of the teams. We want to see how far we can get. We want to win it, in the end. Still, with our group and the teams we have there. Spain. Spain are very strong opponents to play against. It doesn’t matter how young or how old they are. The other teams – Costa Rica is very dangerous because everyone thinks it will be an easy win but the way they play is very aggressive. A lot of fun with the ball. It is very dangerous to go into a game like this and then Japan. Japan has very good footballers. We see a lot of Japanese footballers in the Bundesliga. They also play at a very high level. I think Japan is the best team in our group, after Spain. It will be hard for us.”
How do you contribute as a person to the team and the dressing room? Are you more of a “joker” or a “motivator”? How would you describe yourself?
“Of course, joking is part of my life, so I am not going to stop but I think we have a lot of people joking around who have become leaders here in the team. We are young but not as young as when I left. That is also a good step, becoming leaders in the team. Leaders that were not there when I was last here, two years ago. My part is now: I am also older. I won the Champions League. I can bring a lot of experience to the team. I want to be one of the leaders on the pitch and off the pitch. The people that brought me in expect that from me: to be part of the leaders and push the team into a direction where we can win games and titles at the end.”