Timo Werner to Chelsea latest: What we know so far as RB Leipzig star's release clause triggered

JOE KRISHNAN
PA

One of the biggest transfer sagas of the year has taken a major twist with Timo Werner now heading to Chelsea.

Werner has established a firm reputation as one of European football's top marksmen, with his prolific goalscoring helping to establish RB Leipzig as German top-flight contenders and Champions League quarter-finalists.

The 24-year-old struck a superb hat-trick in the 5-0 dismantling of Mainz last month, taking his tally to 31 for the season with Chelsea now closing in on a £53 million deal.

Liverpool had been frontrunners in the race to land the forward. So what has changed?

Here's what we know so far....

Are Chelsea leading the race?

They are now. Chelsea are closing in on a deal for the RB Leipzig frontman and ready to meet his £53 million release clause.

The Blues, who have been tracking Werner's progress all season and have been looking to add a forward since January, are thought to be close to agreeing a five-year-deal worth £200,000-a-week with the 24-year-old German international.

RB Leipzig chief executive Oliver Mintzlaff says Chelsea are yet to lodge an official bid, though Standard Sport understands one is imminent.

"We haven't had an exchange with Chelsea yet," Leipzig CEO Mintzlaff told Sky Germany on Saturday, June 6. "So far, Timo Werner has not drawn the clause, nor has a club sent a transfer contract."

Reports suggest Werner is available for a fee of around £52million (REUTERS)

Werner was a top target for Premier League rivals Liverpool, who were heavily linked with the forward after he revealed his admiration for Jurgen Klopp, describing his compatriot as the "best coach in the world".

But Standard Sport understands Liverpool will not rival Chelsea in the battle for Werner’s signature as the RB Leipzig striker closes in on a move to Stamford Bridge, having recently taken to strongly denying any desire to follow up on their past interest in Werner.

With Mohamed Salah, Sadio Mane and Roberto Firmino set to stay put this summer, the Reds feel they would have been unable to offer the sort of regular game time the 24-year-old might expect.

Klopp said: "Discussing with the players about things like salary waivers and on the other hand buying a player for £50-60m, we have to explain."

Are Manchester United interested?

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer is a big admirer of the RB Leipzig striker but United are prioritising other targets after securing an extension to Odion Ighalo’s loan deal.

Jadon Sancho remains at the top of Solskjaer’s wanted list – even after the financial impact of coronavirus has forced him to review their spending this summer.

Werner was among a list of strike targets drawn up by United’s transfer committee, along with Moussa Dembele and Erling Braut Haaland. But Solskjaer believes the deal to keep Ighalo at the club until January has alleviated the need to bring in a top-class striker when the window eventually opens.

He also wants to see how Mason Greenwood develops over the next six months to see if the teenager can establish himself as genuine competition to Anthony Martial at the point of United’s attack.

Why is Werner so in-demand?

Quite simply, his goalscoring record speaks for itself.

Since joining Leipzig from Stuttgart in 2016, the 24-year-old has netted 92 goals in just 154 appearances across all competitions.

Timo Werner is very much a striker in considerable demand (Getty Images)

Werner equalled his personal Bundesliga tally from last season (21) before the coronavirus-enforced shutdown in March and then moved to within three goals of perennial Golden Boot contender Robert Lewandowski last weekend as Leipzig recorded their first win since the league's return with their convincing win over Mainz.

That was his third league hat-trick of the season - a statistic that only Barcelona great Lionel Messi can match elsewhere in Europe - and ensured he moved clear of Daniel Frahn as Die Rotten Bullen's all-time leading goal-getter.

A reliable, prolific and versatile forward who is renowned for his movement and also chips in with his fair share of assists, Werner has also notched 11 times in 29 outings for Germany since making his senior debut in 2017.

Who else is interested?

Werner has also been linked with a move to Spain, but likely only if Barcelona (Lautaro Martinez) and Real Madrid (Erling Haaland and Kylian Mbappe) are unable to secure their respective top targets.

Bayern Munich have also been mentioned in connection with Werner. However, the player himself appeared to close the door on a potential switch to the Allianz Arena last month by revealing that he would prefer to move abroad if he were to depart from Leipzig.

"Bayern are a great club. We don't need to talk about it," Werner said. "And [Bayern boss] Hansi Flick has proven this season that he's a really good coach. But if a transfer should ever become an issue, I would rather move abroad than to Bayern.

"It's just that the challenge in another league would appeal to me a little more than a transfer within the Bundesliga."

What have they said?

"[They] have Jurgen Klopp, the best coach in the world who is German. There are a lot of things that would suggest that my playing style might be a good fit" - Timo Werner on Liverpool

"The league is less important, but the club, from a purely hypothetical point of view, I would better see him in good hands with a club that is not necessarily defined by ball possession football" - Red Bull head of sport and former RB Leipzig coach Ralf Rangnick

"Chelsea could be a good fit, I just think he's perfect for Liverpool in a way, but he's not guaranteed to start" - BT Sport pundit Owen Hargreaves

"I do not have the impression that he is carrying a large cross with him. But he is a young guy who is sure to sit at home with his wife and ponder whether he will stay or change" - RB Leipzig boss Julian Nagelsmann