With 126 Bundesliga appearances, five senior Germany caps and a lengthy list of milestones to call his own, Timo Werner has accomplished at 21 what many fail to achieve in their entire careers.
The RB Leipzig forward is a genuine megastar in waiting, but even he has to pinch himself when he looks back on his eye-watering career trajectory to date.
“It’s been crazy,” Werner told Leipzig’s official club magazine. “At the start, I had no idea how many Bundesliga games I’d have played by now. I’d lose count if I started counting now, but I still look forward to every game like it is my first. To walk out into a Bundesliga stadium every week is an amazing feeling – even though it’s going to be even more of a challenge next season.”
Werner saw to that. With 21 goals, the Stuttgart native made a telling contribution to Leipzig’s barnstorming Bundesliga induction, which ended in a runners-up berth and automatic entry into next season’s UEFA Champions League group stage. Outgunning elder statesmen Sandro Wagner (Hoffenheim) and Mario Gomez (Wolfsburg) along the way, he also finished the 2016/17 campaign as the highest-scoring German in the Bundesliga. A call-up to the senior national team was inevitable.
“When you become a senior international, it’s a special achievement,” Werner explained, having made his debut for the world champions in a 1-0 friendly win over England in March. “I used to watch guys like Thomas Müller and Manuel Neuer on the TV. Now I’m part of the Confederations Cup team, but you can’t afford to rest on your laurels.”
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Not that Werner could ever be accused of slacking. After joining Stuttgart aged six, he wrote his turbo-charged name into Cannstadt folklore as the club’s youngest ever debutant and goalscorer. He later became the Bundesliga’s youngest player to score a brace and reach 50 appearances – all before the age of 19.
Although his time at his boyhood outfit ended on a sour note - Stuttgart were relegated to the second tier at the end of 2015/16 - Werner’s reputation did not suffer. He moved to promoted Leipzig the following summer, bolting down a place in Ralph Hasenhüttl’s swash-buckling starting XI in no time at all.
Testament to his swift transition, Werner had already doubled his career goal tally by the turn of the year. Come the end of the campaign, only Borussia Dortmund’s Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, Bayern Munich’s Robert Lewandowski and Cologne’s Anthony Modeste had scored more Bundesliga goals.
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“He’s already a very good player, but I think he will be a massive player,” Leipzig mentor Hasenhüttl opined. “In terms of forwards, he has the biggest and best stock in German football. He’s matured with us and become a more complete footballer. He has an unbelievable path ahead of him.”
Rubbing shoulders with some of Germany’s brightest prospects at the Confederations Cup will only further Werner’s development. The Stuttgart academy graduate opened his account for Die Mannschaft with a brace in the 3-1 victory over Cameroon, and was on target again in the semi-final rout of Mexico.
With a battle-hardened Chile outfit the last remaining hurdle, Werner's innate nose for goal could make all the difference in Sunday's final in St. Petersburg. If his current flight path is anything to go by, the Leipzig virtuoso will almost certainly be returning to Russian soil to spearhead Germany's World Cup title defence in a year's time.
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