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Germany Watch: Michael Ballack challenges Chelsea’s Timo Werner

One Germany legend pleads to a current-generation torchbearer to turn on the fire.

Timo Werner looks on during the UEFA Nations League match between Germany and England on June 14, 2022 Photo by Alex Gottschalk/DeFodi Images via Getty Images

Germany international and current — though not for long? — Chelsea FC striker Timo Werner cuts an enigmatic figure. Once the toast of the Bundesliga ball under Julian Nagelsmann at RB Leipzig, Werner has endured a perilous few years in England. Former Bayern Munich, Chelsea, and Germany player Michael Ballack has some advice, as well as choice words, for Germany’s pacy frontman.

“He lacks the necessary ‘elbow mentality’,” Ballack said pointedly in comments captured by Sport1. “Taking the step to Chelsea...was courageous. [But] Timo was already further along than he is at the moment. That’s where we talk about personality and character.”

For Ballack, this is as true for club as it is for country, and Werner must — cue Drake memes — “flip the switch.”

Ballack noted that Werner was once close to solidifying his role as Germany’s No. 9. But while he still wears the jersey and enjoys a good measure of faith from current coach Hansi Flick, he’s had quite some years to forget in the national setup. Flick’s predecessor Joachim Löw lost faith in Werner by last year and used him sparingly in the 2021 EURO, despite overseeing Werner’s rise through the 2017 Confederations Cup and some forgettable tournament that happened the following year.

Okay, okay — the 2018 World Cup. That happened.

And perhaps that was the beginning of the end. Werner was unconvincing centrally that tournament and Germany seemed to need to shift him wide left to get any scoring initiative going. Transfer rumors abounded, including to Bayern Munich. By 2020 Werner was at Chelsea, where he invented new ways to miss sitters on a regular basis. The boo-birds were accumulating. He needed to play off a real nine, they ventured. Or he could only score in the Bundesliga.

Werner never stopped working hard, or making the darting, dangerous runs, especially down the left channel. He won a Champions League with the Blues in his first season. But he never got things quite on track again, either. And now he finds himself likely on his way out at his club, after watching Romelu Lukaku come and go.

“Too well-behaved” is how Ballack describes Werner’s demeanor — that he is someone who has gotten into the habit of “surrender[ing] to his fate.”

These are ills that may take more than a change of scenery to address. As rumors swirl of a return to RB Leipzig and the Bundesliga, Ballack — a ferocious mentality warrior through his time with the German men’s national team — urged Werner to undergo a re-eval and reboot.

Otherwise, Ballack warned, “He will continue to have a hard time.”

Despite the harsh words, Ballack seems a man firmly in Werner’s corner. And if Timo can rebound, it’ll be a lift for Germany’s hopes as well. The Men’s World Cup is once again just around the corner. Let’s hope it’s #TimoTime this time.

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