When Timo Werner was still at school, he would refuse to sign autographs despite being the local boy made good, the 17-year-old who was already in Stuttgart's first team.

"I'm a normal school pupil," he insisted at the time. Perhaps he was, but there is little doubt now the RB Leipzig striker has already become an extraordinary footballer and — given he turns just 22 in March — there is the mouthwatering prospect that there should be even better to come.

Watch: Timo Werner's path from idolising Mario Gomez to replacing his hero for Germany.

That is not good news for everyone. In just over four years he has gone from taking tests in the classroom to handing some of the planet's best defenders the stiffest examinations of their careers. More often than not, it is Werner who passes.

"I fulfilled a dream by making a career out of my hobby," the young man who scored 21 league goals in a stunning 2016/17 season told bundesliga.com recently. "To make the national team as well, and to have a chance of going to the World Cup is fantasy stuff." The reality is even more fantastic: Werner is likely to head to Russia as Germany's number one forward after a phenomenal 18 months since his move east from his hometown club.

Werner will shoulder the bulk of the goalscoring burden for Germany in Russia next summer. © gettyimages / Matthias Hangst

"With him, we can win the tournament," former Germany and Schalke favourite Gerald Asamoah told kicker recently. "He's a strong finisher, very fast, can get in behind defences and create spaces in deep-lying positions; Timo Werner is just very, very good.

"You have to ask yourself, what happened to the boy in Leipzig? Before he was relatively good in Stuttgart, but not a complete scorer – how he has since developed at Leipzig is sensational."

The switch to the Red Bull Arena has certainly been the catalyst for Werner to move into the big boys' playground, but the talent that has enabled him to excel there with impish ease has long been staggering spectators.

Werner was a fearless and feared striker even as a teenager at Stuttgart. © DFL DEUTSCHE FUSSBALL LIGA / Koepsel

He banged in 24 goals playing for Stuttgart's Under-19 team during the 2012/13 season, a campaign which he started as a fresh-faced 16-year-old! That earned him the Fritz Walter gold medal — an accolade handed out to Germany's brightest and best in boots — and he picked up the silver medal behind Bayer Leverkusen's Jonathan Tah in the U19 category two years later.

By then, he was already established among the Bundesliga's most highly thought of. Stuttgart's youngest-ever debutant in any competition when he appeared in a UEFA Europa League game in August 2013, Werner also claimed that honour in the DFB Cup, and then the Bundesliga at 17 years, 164 days. He even became the Bundesliga's youngest-ever double goalscorer when he found the net twice in the win over Freiburg on Matchday 12 of the 2013/14 season. He did all that before he had left school, and still could not legally order a whiskey in a bar in Germany.

Watch: Find out if Timo Werner is as quick with his brain as he is with his feet.

"The boy has crazy speed," said then-VfB boss Thomas Schneider, who was also Werner's mentor at youth level and is now again as assistant coach of Germany, after seeing his young charge make a winning contribution to a 3-1 win in the Black Forest. That rocket-propelled pace — he has been clocked at a dizzying 11.1 seconds for 100 metres — has mirrored the accelerated nature of Werner's giddying ascent to the summit of German football.

The fleet of foot and "incredible hunger for goals", as Germany Joachim Löw highlighted, were already present in his Stuttgart days, which brought a promising — if not spectacular — 14 goals in 96 league outings. But as Asamoah pointed out, the transformation of that potential into a streamlined goalscoring predator since donning a Leipzig shirt has still been remarkable.

Leipzig must take some of the credit with not only Werner but also Emil Forsberg, Jean-Kevin Augustin, Naby Keita and Dayot Upamecano, to name just three, having also found the ideal nest in which to develop their fledgling talent and then see it take flight, profiting from the bold policy put in place by sporting director Ralf Rangnick, a confirmed believer in youth.

But Werner, using the work ethic instilled in him by his father, Günther Schuh, to exploit the talent packed into the genes provided the former Stuttgarter Kickers player and Sabine, the mother whose maiden name Timo sports, has been the main driving force behind his own success.

Though he claimed to be just a "normal school pupil", Werner has shown a genius-like aptitude in learning quickly under Ralph Hasenhüttl. While his strike rate of 31 goals in 49 Bundesliga appearances and the fact he became the youngest-ever — yes, another record — to play in 100 Bundesliga game have grabbed the headlines, cannier observers will have seen the introduction into his game of other aspects that have an admiring Löw believing he has "a great future."

Still scoring goals but adding even more to the team, Werner has become the complete package in Leipzig. © gettyimages / Stuart Franklin

"He's an old-school forward, mobile, loves a dribble and is always thinking about scoring a goal," is how his agent, Karl-Heinz Förster, a former Germany international defender who should know a top-class forward when he sees one, described Werner. And in a year-and-a-half in Saxony, he has developed a more complete game, admitting to bundesliga.com he now tracks back which "wasn't a great strength of mine when I came here, but I have made it one."

"I'm happy we're on the same team because he's difficult for opposition players to stop; his pace, his exceptional technique and finishing – he's a class striker," Upamecano told bundesliga.com when asked about the handful of a forward he has to cope with on a daily basis in training. "He definitely has the potential to become one of the best strikers in the world."

Werner receives a round of applause from boyhood hero Mario Gomez. © imago / Sven Simon

What Upamecano, Leipzig fans, Bundesliga and UEFA Champions League defenders - after three goals in his first six matches among Europe's club elite - know already, the world is likely to discover in Russia where Werner will surely be the premier choice of Löw over Bayern Munich's Sandro Wagner and Stuttgart's comeback one-time-kid Mario Gomez.

"When I was 11, 12, I used to have posters of Mario on my wall," Werner admitted before being just as star-struck when he joined his boyhood hero in the dressing room of the world champions. "Suddenly, there I was with Mario giving me high-fives and wishing me good luck on playing for Germany instead of him."

Having watched Werner make his senior international debut on the night Lukas Podolski said 'Auf Wiedersehen' to his with England the opponents in Dortmund last March, Gomez should get used to having the role of luxury cheerleader when Germany defend their title in Russia in the summer.

Watch: Werner is one of Germany's new golden generation set to take the World Cup by storm

Werner has already tasted success there, finishing last year's FIFA Confederations Cup as top scorer, bringing home the Golden Boot for himself as well as the tournament trophy for his country. He received his individual honour from the hands of Brazilian legend Ronaldo while Diego Maradona was the first to congratulate him.

The pair were heading for their 22nd birthdays when they first tasted a global final tournament, the same age Werner will be when he pulls on a Germany shirt next summer. Whether he joins them in the club of world champions or not, one thing is for sure: there will be many many more people asking for his autograph than there was in school.

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