RB Leipzig forward Timo Werner has been named as the Bundesliga’s Player of the Month for December, fending off competition from Marco Reus, Jadon Sancho, Philippe Coutinho, Philipp Max and Filip Kostic. The award, created by the DFL Deutsche Fußball Liga in cooperation with the Bundesliga’s official licensing partner, EA SPORTS FIFA 20, is decided through a two-stage selection process that considers both the players' individual performance data and a vote by fans and experts.
Fresh from being crowned as the November Player of the Month, Timo Werner continued to torment Bundesliga defences into December, scoring five goals to take his tally to 18 at the halfway stage of the season. That haul also made the Germany international the sharpest shooter in Germany’s top flight for the month, while he had more efforts on goal (23) than anyone else in the league. The 23-year-old credited his new head coach as the reason for his incredible form: “I’ve become very versatile under Julian Nagelsmann and have already played in a few positions. I haven’t just played on the left or the right, but also as a No.10 or leading the line.”
Nagelsmann has likewise acknowledged the improvement from his free-scoring attacker: “Timo would often be parked out on the left and then get involved in counter-attacks, but now he moves between the lines and is more unpredictable.” The statistics more than back up Nagelsmann’s assertion. Werner’s five strikes in December not only helped Leipzig top the table over the winter break, they also broke the forward’s previous personal best of 17 goals in the first half of a season. Furthermore, his return of 18 so far is the best figure in the first half of a campaign by a German player since Dieter Müller in 1977/78. Never one to rest on his laurels, Werner is eager for more after the winter hiatus: “We can still improve a lot. If we can do that then maybe we can still be top at the end of the season."
The other nominees
The Borussia Dortmund captain led by example in December and was his team’s standout performer throughout the month, prior to missing their last fixture against TSG Hoffenheim with a muscle injury. The 30-year-old was directly involved in six goals, scoring three himself and providing a further three assists; that equates to half of his goal contributions for the entire first half of the season in one month (nine goals, three assists). Only teammate Jadon Sancho had a direct hand in more goals than Reus did in December, but nobody set up more than BVB’s No.11. Dortmund’s match against Fortuna Düsseldorf at the start of December had a liberating effect on Reus after what was – by his standards – a disappointing November: he scored two and made two in an eventual 5-0 victory.
“The criticism that was directed at me was justified, I know I didn’t perform as I’m able to,” said Reus, before providing the perfect answer in the final fixtures of the year. On Matchday 15 he registered a goal and an assist in a 4-0 triumph in Mainz to erase an unwanted blemish on his record in 2019/20 - that of not directly contributing to a goal away from home. The Germany international went on to set up another in the top-of-the-table clash against Leipzig, underlining his return to form. With nine goals to his name so far this term, he is already halfway to reaching his personal best of 18 set in 2011/12.
If Borussia Dortmund were on fire in December, special praise must be reserved for Jadon Sancho, who was in devastating form. The England international was involved in more goals than anyone else in the league, with four goals and three assists, a haul that was responsible for more than half of Dortmund’s 13 efforts in the month. Impressive as those numbers are, the 19-year-old was also astonishingly clinical, finishing four of his 10 shots on target. Whether going one-on-one with a defender or linking up with a teammate, Sancho simply appeared unstoppable.
“He’s a world-class footballer,” said head coach Lucien Favre of his young charge, who in December scored almost half of his nine goals this term, which in itself is a personal record for Sancho in the first half of a season. “He’s a good lad, who helps us a great deal on a regular basis,” continued Favre. “I’ve rarely seen a player who’s as good as he is at such a young age.” Sancho’s star has also risen in his homeland, where he is now a household name, even if the young attacker refuses to let it all go to his head: in December he simply let his football do the talking.
FC Bayern München knew they were getting a magician when they signed Philippe Coutinho on loan from FC Barcelona over the summer, but even the record Bundesliga champions cannot have expected to be as dazzled as they were in December. The Brazilian showcased the full range of his ability throughout the month, but put on a real masterclass against Werder Bremen with a hat-trick and two assists in a 6-1 success. The last Bayern player to have been so effective in a single game was Robert Lewandowski, who likewise scored three and set up two against Augsburg in April 2017, while only one Brazilian had ever previously scored a Bundesliga hat-trick for Bayern: Giovane Elber.
“I’m delighted that the dam has broken for him,” said Bayern sporting director Hasan Salihamidzic of the 27-year-old, who registered almost half of his total goal contributions for the first half of a season (11) in the Bremen drubbing. Teammate Robert Lewandowski joined the chorus of praise, saying “We need players like him”. Interim coach Hansi Flick evidently agreed and started Coutinho in subsequent matches against Freiburg and Wolfsburg – games in which he helped the record champions pick up vital wins in a tightly packed title trace.
Philipp Max and FC Augsburg both enjoyed a successful December, with the left-back helping his team to three victories in the month and only coming away empty handed against mid-season leaders Leipzig. Max scored four times for Martin Schmidt’s side during the month, a tally that was previously his personal best for an entire season. He clinically finished each of the three clear-cut scoring chances he had, and also buried a stunning free-kick, taking him to six goals in 2019/20 and behind only Florian Niederlechner in the scoring stakes at Augsburg. “He’s incredibly dangerous in the final third,” said sporting director Stefan Reuter. “He covers a lot of ground and is obviously a massive threat form set-pieces, too.”
The 26-year-old’s displays have also coaxed out appreciative murmurs from his teammates. “Philipp is the best German left-back around, no doubt,” said centre-back Tin Jedvaj, leading the calls for a call-up to the national team. Niederlechner, who set up one of Max’s two goals in the 4-2 win over Hoffenheim, agreed: “If he keeps playing like he is, then he’d deserve it.” Max is also adept at setting up goals, as well as scoring them, with his assist against Düsseldorf on Matchday 16 rounding off a hugely impressive December for the left-sided specialist, who was involved in five of Augsburg’s 10 goals over the course of the month.
December wasn’t the kindest of months for Eintracht Frankfurt results-wise, but Filip Kostic gave his absolute everything to turn the tide. “Filip did the running of three men today,” said Eintracht sporting director Fredi Bobic following the Eagles’ 2-1 defeat to SC Paderborn in their final match of the calendar year. Frankfurt drew one and lost three in December, but there was no faulting the effervescent Kostic, who did not miss a minute of the action. The Serbia international averaged 27 sprint attempts per game, chipped in with 25 passes to a shot and was directly involved in 37 goal attempts. He also whipped in league-high 35 crosses in December, producing two assists.
“I’m happy to hear that we’re the best team in the Bundesliga from set-pieces – it’s no coincidence,“ commented Frankfurt head coach Adi Hütter, acknowledging Kostic’s dead-ball prowess. The Serb’s two December assists came via set-plays, and both fell in the 4-2 defeat to 1. FC Köln. Martin Hinteregger was the grateful recipient of one pin-point corner; Goncalo Paciencia stuck away another. Althought Frankfurt surrendered a 2-0 lead against the Billy Goats, the end result took little away from Kostic’s individual display. The Eintract chips are down, but their talismanic No.10 is anything but.
Timo Werner (November 2019)
Serge Gnabry (October 2019)
Amine Harit (September 2019)
Robert Lewandowski (August 2019)
Kai Havertz (May 2019)
Kai Havertz (April 2019)
Max Kruse (March 2019)
Julian Brandt (February 2019)
Leon Goretzka (January 2019)
Marco Reus (December 2018)
Marco Reus (November 2018)
Jadon Sancho (October 2018)
Marco Reus (September 2018)