Jurgen Klopp was interested. Pep Guardiola called. Bayern Munich took a serious look. But it was the old Frank Lampard-Petr Cech routine, responsible for so much of Chelsea’s historical success, which finally won over Timo Werner.
It was quite a coup for a rookie 42-year-old manager, up against some of the world’s biggest clubs and names. Werner was arguably the most-wanted striker in the world available on the transfer market this summer. Lampard did have some advantages: Bayern’s interest cooled and then Liverpool’s interest waned, as the economic impact of the coronavirus grew.
But still, the 24-year-old from Stuttgart chose to switch Leipzig for London thanks to the Petr and Frank show, indicating that the meetings with the Chelsea men had swayed him.
Timo Werner turned down interest from other big European clubs to join Chelsea this summer
The combination of Frank Lampard (above) and Petr Cech had helped make up Werner’s mind
Of course, both have their considerable reputations as players to fall back on and Chelsea’s remuneration packages are considerable. But often, when the player holds all the cards, it comes down to the force of personality projected from the prospective buyer. So Lampard had to be at his best when he met Werner to convince him that Stamford Bridge was his natural home.
‘You understand when it’s competition with the likes of Liverpool and Man City that you need to state your best case to the player,’ said Lampard, who was also once wooed intensely by Internazionale. ‘Having been that player at one point, you have to try to sell the club, sell how I want it to move forward.’
Werner was, in a sense, born to this. His father, Gunther Schuh, who drilled him as a toddler to kick with both feet, played for Stuttgart Kickers at regional level and also coached high-quality regional teams. His mother is Sabine Werner, from whom he takes his surname, as his parents never married. He made his Stuttgart debut at 17, while still at school: his mother insisted he completed das Abitur, the German equivalent of A Levels. He refused to sign autographs at school because he didn’t want to be seen as a superstar.
Werner made his Stuttgart debut at 17, while still at school, and refused to sign autographs
‘Crazy speed’ was how his former Stuttgart coach, Thomas Schneider, described him. Relegation for Stuttgart led to the move to RB Leipzig in 2016. His mental strength was tested at the upstart club backed by Red Bull, which is hated by traditional German fans. He was booed everywhere, including, initially when playing for Germany.
But this seemed the natural time to step up to an elite club and he seems sure of himself. ‘This is a giant club, which wants to win titles,’ he said on arrival at Chelsea. ‘What the club demands of me is no more than I demand of myself. I haven’t come to London to say: “28 goals last season at Leipzig was great and that’s enough for me.”’
Werner may be the pick of the Chelsea crop and a relative bargain at £53million but he is one of many. There is also his compatriot Kai Havertz, who surpassed him as the most-expensive German in history at £72m; Ben Chilwell has come in at £45m; Hakim Ziyech was secured last season at £36m; Thiago Silva arrived on a free; and Rennes goalkeeper Edouard Mendy may yet join.
The striker’s mental strength was tested at RB Leipzig, a club largely disliked within Germany
In fact Chelsea’s transfer window – effectively three windows in one, after last year’s ban and failure to sign in January – looks to have been the best executed in the Premier League. Executives rarely excite fans but ‘#StatueforMarina’ was the Twitter response of some followers, in tribute to Marina Granovskaia, Chelsea’s managing director who oversees transfers.
It is the Germans though who are attracting the most attention. ‘Aside from their quality, German players have a mentality which is admired and appreciated in England,’ said Michael Ballack, Lampard’s former midfield partner.
‘Werner is unbelievably quick, direct and has power,’ Ballack told SportBuzzer website. ‘Havertz is a free spirit who plays in a carefree way. The fact that Leverkusen made him captain shows the esteem in which they hold him.’
The moot point is what will happen to the young players who broke through last season now the club has cut loose in the transfer market again. The imposition of a transfer ban last season meant that Mason Mount, Tammy Abraham, Fikayo Tomori, Reece James and Billy Gilmour all had breakthrough seasons, joining Callum Hudson-Odoi and Ruben Loftus-Cheek to form a core of British academy grown talent.
Kai Havertz has also joined Chelsea as part of the spree which may see youngsters frozen out
It seemed Roman Abramovich’s dream of growing his own team had finally materialised. The subsequent transfer activity has felt more like the summer of 2003, when the Russian oligarch bought the club and splashed out £111m – it was a lot at the time – to transform the squad. And Lampard, a young player then, was at pains to dismiss reports that some of his youngsters were unsettled by incoming stars. ‘I certainly wouldn’t say: “I did it, you can, too.” I don’t think that’s my style.
‘I just saw it as a challenge. When players come in that add quality… it should lift the team. Players with the right mentality will up their game, make friends with the player, make them feel welcome and try and work as well as they can with them. Hopefully then you see levels raised.
‘That was something that did occur in those times. I was a young player, so was John [Terry]. The core of those young players in that group did react and we managed to form a good group going forward.
‘I don’t think I’m saying they [the young players] have to get over it. I expect them to be excited by the challenge. I’m not silly, we’re bringing in players to improve the team to the level we feel we’ve brought in. So of course you want them to play games. But there’s never a point where you actually start siding with players depending on how long they have been here, or how much they cost. Those are not the rules. Nobody would expect that.’