Timo, you tore a ligament in your left ankle against Shakhtar Donetsk at the start of November, were out for a long time as a result and have now been back since the start of the year. How do you feel after the injury?
- “Good, even though I had to deal with other things because of my injury. The foot itself was and is okay, but for example my Achilles’ heel hurt so much that it was painful while running, especially while sprinting. But it has been better for a week and a half and I feel very fit now.”
You have been playing a lot despite the after-effects of the injury. Has that helped?
- “Yes, definitely! The many high intensity games and lots of running were good and important to get back to full fitness.”
As a striker, you are measured by goals. Does it still bother you when you don’t score for a couple of games in a row?
- “Of course, every striker and attacking player needs goals and assists. But I’ve been a professional for quite a few years now and I know that I don’t have to get too worked up if things don’t work out.
You always get your chances to score with the football we play at RB Leipzig, and the calmer you stay, the better you use your opportunities. That’s why I’m now very relaxed and let them come to me rather than forcing it.”
Despite the injury, you have a good record this season, with 12 goals and five assists in 25 appearances across all competitions. How satisfied are you with these figures and do you set yourself goal targets?
- “No, I don’t set myself targets. I was doing very well before the World Cup, but the injury interrupted my form. Looking back, it did take me a few games to get back to my level. It was my first major injury and quite annoying in the end.
After scoring goals against Schalke and Hoffenheim in the first games of the year, I had to admit to myself that it wasn’t so easy to get going. I realized that it’s not pleasant when you aren’t quite at your top fitness and opponents suddenly catch up with you. Now I’m happy that things are going in a good direction and I have no complaints.
It was easy to tell that against Frankfurt with your attacking and defensive runs and especially with your goal and assist. Did you also think about your first years in the Bundesliga, when it was going great for you with Yussuf Poulsen and Emil Forsberg at your side?
- We train together every day; I know the guys well and how they play. That’s why I didn’t think about the “old days”. I just think it’s cool that, after coming back here, there are still a lot of the same faces in the team that I know as people and as players.
And we just work well as a team. It’s great to see that the guys are still playing at the same level, even though they’re three, four, five years older than me.”
Return is a key word there. You’ve been back in Leipzig for just under six months. How would you sum up that time?
- “Good overall. After my time at Chelsea, there was a lot of hope on my return to Leipzig and I am more under scrutiny now than before. But that was to be expected and I have to deal with it.
There was great anticipation from all sides, and I have to measure myself against that. I feel at home in the city and in the team. The boys were so welcoming again. You can see and feel that we are a great team, we’re very together and are performing well, and that’s just enjoyable.”
Is your role in the team different now after two years in the Premier League?
- “Yes, it inevitably makes you more of a leader, also in terms of age. I’ll be 27 on Monday and can’t just be a young player any more, even if I still do sometimes (laughs).
I’m no longer one of the youngsters, but I’m not yet one of the older players, either, but right in the middle. And that’s why I’m gradually becoming a leader on the pitch. I have to continue developing this and grow into it.”
You mentioned your birthday. Do you have any wishes in particular?
- “A win against Dortmund would be great. And of course, above all, that every one of us stays healthy and fit. That’s the most important thing. With my injury, I’ve now realised how bad a period like that can be.”
2,500 RBL fans will be there, and as many as 3,000 will go with the team to Manchester. The home games are regularly sold out and there are lots of kids in the stands with Timo Werner kits on. What do you make of this support?
- “It’s just so nice to feel and see it. Our fan base has always been good, especially at home, where the new fan block with the standing room is even more impressive, and the additional seats make it even louder. Our fans are passionate about the game, and we try to give them as much to cheer about as possible to keep it that way.”
You have 107 goals and are the first RBL player to hit the 100-goal mark after your return. What does that mean to you?
- “It means a lot to me, even though I still don’t set myself goal targets, as I have said. Of course, I want to score as many goals as possible. If that’s 120, then I’ll take it. If it’s 150, then of course I’ll take that too.
These targets are definitely achievable. I think that I showed just before the injury and am now showing again that I can play the same again after a difficult time at Chelsea. That’s why I’m happy after every goal and especially that I am appreciated here by the team and the fans.”
Finally, a brief look at the return match at Manchester City, your “return” to England, so to speak.
- “The time in England was great. I learned a lot and had a lot of great games, particularly with Chelsea facing Manchester City, against whom we won the Champions League. So my record against City in the Champions League is not that bad (laughs).
We’re going to England with lots of confidence and will give our all. We showed in the second half of the first leg that we can do that, so we can go there and be brave. If we can show that again, it will be a good game for us.”
Timo Werner stats 2022/23:
Minutes played: 1,751
Minutes played: 1,163
Goals: 6 (1 brace)
UEFA Champions League:
Minutes played: 442
Minutes played: 146
Goals: 4 (1 hat-trick)