Aside from signing on the dotted line, it seems that Timo Werner is headed to London next season to play for Chelsea after the Premier League side agreed terms to sign the striker from RB Leipzig. For a long while it had looked like it was going to be a toss-up between Bayern Munich and Liverpool for his signature.
Will the Bavarians end up regretting losing out on the German international striker? And just how did he wriggle off the hook?
He loves me, he loves me not
Last summer it looked an almost nailed-on certainty that Bayern were going to snap up Werner from rivals Leipzig with the player available for a reported €25 million due to a clause in his contract. Reports claim personal terms had been agreed and the contract was on the table and ready for the ink to be applied. Sporting director Hasan Salihamidžić however put a spanner in the works, by deciding to pursue Leroy Sané instead.
A €100 million deal for the Manchester City winger was seen at the time as the priority, but then collapsed when the former Schalke man tore his ACL in the English Community Shield season opener. By this stage though, Werner had lost patience with the Bavarians and penned a new deal at RB Leipzig with a higher release clause built into the new contract. Bayern hadn’t just lost out on Sané, but Werner too.
If Bayern were planning to reactivate their pursuit of Werner this summer, they were done no favours at all when Salihamidžić went public to explain Bayern’s reasons for not signing Werner.
“Timo Werner is a good player who had an excellent first half of the season. However, we have Robert Lewandowski. Robert is a striker who is a perfect fit for our playing style,” Salihamidžić said in an interview with Sport Bild and added:
“Robert is able to orientate himself despite having little space on the pitch. He has the ability to move in tight spaces and find excellent solutions with the ball.
“With his pace, Timo Werner needs more space, just like he had in the system that Leipzig played. They may have changed their system, but it’s still not as tight for them offensively as it is for us,” the Bayern boss explained.
In terms of courtship it was akin to a boy asking a girl out and agreeing on a date. He then sees a prettier girl and asks her out, only for her to be grounded by her parents. Oh well, he decides to go back to the original girl only to discover she’s gone back to her ex-boyfriend. Spurned? No, he claims he didn’t really want to go out with her in the first place, because she wasn’t actually his type.
If this was a playground tryst, it would be amusing, but this played out in the Bundesliga transfer window with the ‘boyfriend’ Salihamidžić not coming up smelling of roses.
Werner responded by saying: “I think everyone are entitled to their opinion. But regardless of what he said, Bayern have players like Serge [Gnabry] and Kingsley [Coman] who use their speed on the wings to run in behind. He’s obviously right about the fact that Lewandowski is a great striker and that they’re very well-positioned up front. But I also think Lewandowski has changed his playing style over the years.
“I can only speak about and for myself: I’m 23 and can still learn a lot of things. But in Leipzig, I have often shown that I can score against teams that defend deep and that I can move well in tight spaces,” Werner said.
A lover spurned?
For Timo Werner to leave Leipzig, Bayern were the only viable option in Germany, but that didn’t mean he was without options. Liverpool had long been linked and the player’s agent knew full well that the Premier League would be market fully prepared to take the striker to its shores.
Did Bayern’s failed flirtation lead to a switch in focus from the player to the English game? It would seem that Bayern’s lack of drive to secure his services was taken to heart by the 24-year-old and despite Bayern coach Hansi Flick seemingly telling the Bayern bosses that he would like Werner during the negotiations over his full-time post, the die had been cast- Werner was off to foreign shores.
“Bayern are a great club; we don’t need to talk about that. And Hansi Flick has proven that he’s a really good head coach. But if a move should be an option at some point, I would rather move abroad than to Bayern,” Werner told Bild and added:
“The challenge in another league would appeal more to me than a switch within the Bundesliga. Of course, it also plays a role that the mutual appreciation should be at its maximum. That’s why I chose RB Leipzig back then, and that’s why I would choose a club that would give me that feeling again if I were to take the next step.”
Two words in particular stand out- ‘mutual appreciation’. A clearer indication there could not be that Werner spurned Bayern due to what happened last summer. Hasan Salihamidžić’s clumsy courtship of Werner has ended up costing Bayern.
Trainer Hansi Flick speaking this week was magnanimous when admitting Bayern had lost out to Chelsea in the race to sign the Leipzig hitman. “This is a decision Timo made. And you have to respect that, everything is okay,” Flick told reporters on Friday. “Timo is a very good player, also a player who scores. Chelsea made a very good commitment if that’s the case.”
A commitment that Bayern were not prepared to make and one that could come back to haunt them. Nobody can be 100% sure of Werner’s potential success in the Premier League, but chances are with his huge talent he will do very well. Bayern do have Robert Lewandowski still at the peak of his game and the Pole has been highly successful at avoiding injuries throughout his career, but the Bavarians’ squad does look very thin when you look at the striking options.
Of course, there are lots of ifs and buts, but not signing Timo Werner when they had the chance could come back to bite Bayern on the bum. Bayern are a big fish, but they may go on to regret the one they let get away.