Since Miroslav Klose’s retirement from the German national team following the 2014 World Cup title, there has been a void at the top of die Mannschaft’s formation.
Although the international side has an embarrassment of riches in the midfield, a plethora of powerful and skilled defenders, and a horde of top goalkeepers behind new captain Manuel Neuer, there are precious few options at striker.
To combat this, Joachim Löw has tried utilizing a false nine by putting Mesut Özil, Mario Götze and a few other midfielders in the striker position. He has even tried bringing Mario Gomez back from international obscurity, with some success. Yet nothing has filled the void left by the prolific Klose.
No one has been able to combine the speed, skill and finishing talent of the departed striker. However, if Löw has been watching the games from the upstarts in Leipzig; he may have found Klose’s heir apparent. Timo Werner.
Before we go any farther, no one is saying anyone can match the numbers that Klose put up in his career. The incredible Klose netted over 120 Bundesliga goals in around 300 appearances, 71 goals in 137 national team caps, and is the all-time leader in World Cup goals and goals for the German national team. Those numbers are impossible for anyone to live up to.
Enter Werner. At 20 years old he is already closing in on 100 appearances in Germany’s first division. This puts him way ahead of Klose, who didn’t make his Bundesliga debut for FC Kaiserslautern until he was 21 and didn’t score his first goal in the top flight until he was 22.
Werner put away 13 goals in the league in three seasons with VfB Stuttgart and added his first two for RB Leipzig in Matchday 3 of this season against Hamburg.
As is often the case, the numbers are not the reason the two are similar. It is also not just the comprable size of the two strikers (Klose is a smidge taller at 1.84m compared to Werner at 1.80m). It is the style of play that the two strikers share that makes this comparison apt.
Throughout his career, Klose was known first and foremost for his tenacity. He was always the ‘run all day’ kind of attacker who put constant pressure on the opposition. Though not huge physically, his fitness enabled him to make himself a constant nuisance for backlines to deal with.
Even at the age of 36 in the 2014 World Cup, Klose was among the most fit and athletic players on the field. That pace and athleticism allowed him to reach the prolific heights that he did in his career.
Finally, Klose was known for his fearlessness and ruthlessness in front of goal. When a ball was put into the box, there was no doubt who would get on the end of it. Even against much taller defenders, Klose would dominate in the air and get the ball headed towards the goal.
Werner has already made his pace and tenacity a hallmark of his game in the young 2016/17 season. His constant attacking of the Hoffenheim, Dortmund and Hamburg defenses so far this season have kept those teams constantly threatened. This relentless action culminated in a drawn penalty and an expertly taken fastbreak goal against Hamburg in Leipzig’s 4-0 win.
Werner also put away RB’s 2nd goal, his first of the season, in between those two events. In this score, he finally showed some of Klose’s trademark bravery as he fought through a crowd to knock home a cross into the open goal. The young German also found himself propelled into the back of the net for his trouble.
Despite the great day for Werner, his finishing and aerial prowess still does need work to get up to the world-class level of Klose. Keep in mind though, he’s 20. At 20, Klose was still playing in a regional league. And Werner is more likely to flourish at RBL under the steady direction of Ralf Rangnick and Ralph Hasenhüttl. In his three seasons with VfB Stuttgart’senior squad, Werner’s development was certainly stymied as the chaotic Swabians changed coaches six times, hardly creating an environment of instability and insecurity for such a bright young talent/
At the international level, Werner has not yet made his full senior debut. He was also left off of this summer’s Olympic roster because of his transfer to RB Leipzig. The national team coaching staff thought it better for him to focus on his preseason in Saxony.
At the youth level, however, he has been prolific. Starting at the U15 level in 2010 and moving up to U21 in 2015, Werner has put in 33 goals in 43 appearances with German youth national teams.
Given his record in the youth ranks and his fast start to this campaign with the surprising Leipzig side, it will likely only be a matter of time until Löw comes calling. When he does, it may only be a matter of time until Germany no longer misses the departed Klose, because Werner could be the striker that Germany has been looking for.
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