Timo Werner remains grounded despite establishing himself as Germany's number one striker in recent weeks and months.
Timo Werner remains grounded despite establishing himself as Germany's number one striker in recent weeks and months.

RB Leipzig's Timo Werner: "My mum insisted I finish high school!"


Germany's first-choice striker; a Confederations Cup winner; plunderer of 21 goals for last season's Bundesliga runners up RB Leipzig, three strikes in as many games this term... Timo Werner has every reason to be cocky.

But as bundesliga.com found out recently, that couldn't be further from the truth. In this exclusive interview we catch up with the flying forward about Leipzig's ascent, the club's UEFA Champions League ambitions, and what he'd have done if not for football...

bundesliga.com: Timo Werner, RB Leipzig have a very young team, yet you adapted to life in the Bundesliga so quickly. How do you explain this?

Timo Werner: I think very few people would have had us finishing at the top end of the table. However, we knew we had a lot of quality and a good team spirit and that we could achieve something if we showed that on the pitch. I think we managed to do that all season.

Watch: Werner's Top 5 goals!

bundesliga.com: Since the club was founded eight years ago, RBL have been climbing steadily. Can you finish as runners up again?

Werner: We certainly shouldn't expect that every season. I wouldn't even consider a Europa League finish as a backward step this season. We are in three competitions this year and we want to enjoy it. As you said, we're still very young and we'll grow as a team. But we can be proud of what we've already achieved. We mustn't rest on our laurels, though. The 2016/17 season is history.

bundesliga.com: You will face Monaco, Porto and Besiktas in the Champions League. It could have been worse...

Werner: On one hand we're happy not to have drawn some of the favourites for the competition. On the other hand, playing a team like Real Madrid or Barcelona in the Bernabeu or Camp Nou, being there not just as a tourist but as a player, would be an absolute highlight.

bundesliga.com: Progress is possible. How do you rate the teams in your group?

Werner: Istanbul's a very nice city, and the atmosphere in the stadium is great. Deafening. The same goes for Porto and their fans, or so I've been told. And Monaco played brilliantly in the Champions League last season and also won their league ahead of Paris Saint-Germain, so that tells you something about them. So these are not easy games. We have to concentrate on our home games. We've become something of a power at home, even against Bayern Munich they could only edge us by a goal [Bayern beat Leipzig 5-4 in a thriller in May]. We can beat big teams at home!

Watch: Highlights of Leipzig's nine-goal thriller against Bayern!

bundesliga.com: Would a game in the Bundesliga pale in comparison to a match in Istanbul?

Werner: Not at all. We're well aware of the quality in the Bundesliga. This is one of the strongest leagues in the world, and in the end small margins can decide victory. You can't get away with playing at 90 per cent.

bundesliga.com: You may only be 21 but you already have a number of records: Youngest scorer of a Bundesliga brace; first Leipzig player to win a Germany cap; top scorer at the Confederations Cup. How do you handle that?

Werner: Records are nice things, but what's done is done, and no defender in the Champions League is going to say 'Oh, there comes Timo Werner, who won the Golden Shoe'. That's not how it works (laughs!)

bundesliga.com: Who helps keep you grounded?

Werner: It's not that hard to keep my feet on the ground. I'm not a guy to get big-headed just cos I've scored some goals. When I'm with my family and friends I'm not Timo Werner the footballer, I'm just Timo, the son, friend... just a guy like everyone else. If I do something wrong they're not scared to tell me!

bundesliga.com: You finished school whilst you were at VfB Stuttgart. Not every young professional footballer is able to do that...

Werner: That was a tough fight too, but I passed it. I signed with VfB before the end of high school at 17. I could have focused solely on football, but my mother really wanted me to finish school. I never considered not doing it to be honest. That wouldn't have been smart. In hindsight I'm quite proud that I managed to finish school and kick on with my professional football career.

bundesliga.com: Do you know what you would have done if you hadn't been a footballer?

Werner: No. By becoming a pro at VfB so early, I quickly realised that I'd put everything into being a footballer. It was just important to finish high school in the event something unexpected happens. Once I retire I'd like to do something unrelated to football, but that's in the distant future. Now I'm focused 100 per cent on football and RB Leipzig.

bundesliga.com: Speaking of Stuttgart, how do you think your old club will do this season?

Werner: They're quite like us in that they have a young team. They are an ambitious group players and the club, by virtue of its youth academy, is probably doing pretty well financially. I'm convinced VfB have the class to do well.

Werner was speaking to Andreas Kötter

Click here for more RB Leipzig news and features!