Why did Tottenham sign Timo Werner? Chelsea record, transfer fee for RB Leipzig forward signed on loan

After the cycle of optimism, brief success, drudgery and misery prompted by appointing former Chelsea managers, Ange Postecoglou has brought good times back to Tottenham.

Playing fearless, uncompromising attacking football, Spurs are a point behind neighbours Arsenal and on the heels of the top four after 20 Premier League games this season.

An exciting 2024 lies in wait. Only, they’ve just signed for a former Chelsea forward.

“A lot of things attracted me here — first of all, the talk with the manager,” Timo Werner said after joining Tottenham on loan for the rest of the season from RB Leipzig, with Spurs having the option to buy him outright.

“I thought it was a really good talk. He gave me straight away the feeling that I need to join a club, [which is] what I want to feel when you talk to a manager, and also the tactics and the style, how he wants to play, how he lets the team play.”

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Werner is not the first person to be swept up by the Postecoglou positivity and, along with Son Heung-min, Richarlison, Dejan Kulusevski and Brennan Johnson, he will be part of what looks like a devastating array of skilful and pacy forward options on paper.

On the other hand, a 27-year-old who should be in the prime of his career comes back to the Premier League having lost his starting spot at Leipzig, dropped out of the Germany squad and with the biggest transfer of his career widely considered to be a failure. 

It’s going to be fascinating to see how this one plays out.

Why did Tottenham sign Timo Werner?

Postecoglou’s excellent start at Spurs has come despite losing the club’s all-time record goalscorer Harry Kane to Bayern Munich.

Any player stepping directly into Kane’s shoes would have been asked to shoulder an impossible burden and the Australian tactician has shrewdly reworked the forward line, with Son moving off the wing to play predominantly as a centre-forward. During the early months of the season, new signing James Maddison filled the void of Kane the creator and is closing in on his return from a hamstring injury.

Overall, under ‘Angeball’, the power of the collective and versatility within that is key — something that was sold to Werner.

“This was part of when I spoke to the manager, that it’s important for him and also for me that I can play every position up front,” he told Tottenham’s official website. “It’s always good when you have some players that can play different positions, who can change in the game.

“I think it makes it even harder to defend for the other teams if they never know who is coming from this position now. So I think that’s one of my strengths, to be flexible up front and to play every position and that is a thing where I can also help the team.”

Werner Forsberg - cropped

In very broad terms, Werner’s schooling in the Leipzig style focused on hard-running, transitions and counter-pressing is divergent from Postecoglou’s approach, which draws more heavily on the Cruyffian Catalan style. 

However, there is plenty of crossover in terms of how the two dominant modern football ideologies have developed and it is easy to see how a technically sound, tactically intelligent and hard-working forward such as Werner will enhance a Postecoglou side.

If he thrives, Spurs have the option to sign him on a permanent basis for around £15 million ($19m) at the end of the season.

Timo Werner Chelsea record, transfer fee

“When I joined my old club, I said I wanted to be a winner and I wanted to win titles and, in the end, we won the Champions League, so I think it shouldn’t be too bad to say that I’ve come here to also win titles and to win something,” Werner said. It’s all very on-message, from neglecting to mention Spurs’ rivals Chelsea by name to giving the most sunny-side-up assessment of his Stamford Bridge career.

In many respects, Chelsea’s 1-0 UEFA Champions League final win over Manchester City in May 2021 was Werner’s Blues career in microcosm.

Thomas Tuchel’s team, particularly before halftime, had City’s number on the counterattack and in transitions at the Estadio do Dragao. Werner’s pace and intelligence was a key part of that. However, if it hadn’t been for his haphazard finishing, Chelsea would almost certainly have enjoyed a more emphatic victory.

Overall, he scored 23 times in 89 Chelsea appearances. Compared to some other big-name forwards to have endured torrid times at Stamford Bridge during the modern era, it’s certainly not terrible and Werner did not always play as a centre-forward.

Timo Werner Chelsea 2021-22

But considering what Chelsea signed up for, it was undeniably a very modest return. In the 2019/20 season, a ravenous Werner racked up 34 goals in 45 games for RB Leipzig. It persuaded the Blues to cough up £54m ($58.3m) to recruit the Germany international, something that looked like very good business.

Across his two spells with Leipzig, Werner has 113 goals in 213 appearances, a record not to be sniffed at. Nevertheless, the low reported fee Spurs will have to pay to sign him outright shows how much his stock has fallen.

These should be Werner’s prime years, but form and fitness problems mean he won the last of his 57 caps for Germany last March. The most recent of his 24 goals for Die Mannschaft was a brace against Italy in the UEFA Nations League in June 2022.

Germany hosts Euro 2024 this summer, plotting out the possibility of a memorable redemption arc for Werner. It’s another aspect of a transfer where there is plenty to gain for both parties and relatively little risk. When it comes to doing business in January, that’s a pretty solid equation.

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