Timo Werner etched his name in the VfB Stuttgart history books when he appeared in a 1-1 draw at PFC Botev Plovdiv on the first day of August 2013.
Punching hard above his weight
At the age of 17 years, four months and 15 days, he ran out in a Stuttgart shirt as the youngest player ever to have pulled on the jersey in a competitive match, for the club based just a stone's throw from where he was born and raised.
Still only 17, he later became the first player in Bundesliga history to bag a brace when Stuttgart defeated SC Freiburg on Matchday 12 of the 2013/14 campaign. After starring for the U-17 side, he was fast-tracked to the U-19s, missing out the U-18s completely, before being drafted into the senior squad at the beginning of the season.
"For me, the age difference doesn’t play that big a role," he told the German Football Association (DFB) aged 16, already competing with players three years his senior. "I know that it's special for a 16-year-old to be able to play with older players, but I cope with it." Not only did he cope, Werner excelled, thanks to the training from his footballing father.
Günther Schuh, a professional in his day for SpVgg Ludwigsburg and SV Stuttgarter Kickers, honed his son's talents, and particularly his eye for goal, from an early age. "He would keep giving me the ball to practise my shooting," recalls Werner. "First it was the right foot, then the left. We worked on my technique."
The result was 24 goals in 24 games for the U-17s and 24 in 23 for the U-19s, before being summoned into the first team having received the gold Fritz-Walter medal for the best German player in his age group. He is now reaping the rewards of that hard work at the highest level of the professional game. "I'd say it's instinct," he said. "When I shoot on the turn, for example, I often just give whack it and the ball almost automatically ends up in the corner. If I think too much about it, I tend to score less."
From the terrace to the field
His instincts are bound to endear him to the faithful in the Cannstatter Kürve, a place where he himself stood on 16 October 2004 to see Stuttgart beat Borussia Dortmund 2-0. It was an experience that gave him the bug and an extra incentive to make it in the big time.
"I'm Stuttgart through and through and I want to succeed here," he said. "When you've been able to play a decade for your favourite club, then it's a dream come true." He will be hoping for many more years to come of representing his hometown club.