Timo Werner is on the cusp of joining Chelsea, yet for a long time it looked as though the Germany international was Anfield bound. Back in February, he admitted: “I know Liverpool is the best team in the moment in the world. When you’re linked with that team it makes me very proud. But in case of that, it’s a pleasure but I know at Liverpool there are a lot of good players and I know I have to improve myself to learn much more things to get on this level to play there.”
“You have there the best coach in the world with Jurgen Klopp,” he would add just days later. “There are many things that would suggest that my style of play might be a good fit.”
For all intents and purposes, it seemed inevitable that Liverpool would activate the £53million release clause in Werner’s RB Leipzig contract.
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The Reds need an extra option in the final third to give Mohamed Salah, Sadio Mane and Roberto Firmino greater competition, particularly with Salah and Mane set to play in the African Cup of Nations midway through next season.
In Werner, at 24 years of age, with an ability to play in multiple attacking roles and having plundered 25 goals and laid on eight assists in 30 Bundesliga games this term, it appeared Liverpool had identified the ideal option.
He is an attacker blessed with pace, excellent movement and spatial awareness and the kind of work rate that would allow him to replace any of Salah, Firmino or Mane or even start alongside the trio at a fairly affordable price of £53m – albeit the impact of the coronavirus crisis means that a fee of that size can no longer be valued as a ‘bargain’, despite his quality.
Jurgen Klopp even held meetings and WhatsApp chats with the striker to convince him that he should move to Merseyside.
But Chelsea have now agreed a contract with Werner, said to be in the region of £170,000-a-week per The Athletic, and it appears Chelsea will activate his exit clause in the coming days.
Will Liverpool make a last-ditch attempt to match their offer and trump their Premier League rivals at the last minute? The terms of his agreement suggest not.
Werner, who will pen a five-year contract, will instantly become the highest paid player at Chelsea and it has been reported that his wages will increase annually.
Liverpool, by contrast, only have three players on wages higher than £170,000 – Mohamed Salah’s £200,000-a-week salary and the £180,000-a-week pay-packets earned by Roberto Firmino and Sadio Mane.
And it is Salah, and also goalkeeper Alisson Becker, who prove why it would be a shock were Liverpool to launch a last-minute approach for Werner – particularly having decided £53m is out of their price range post-COVID-19.
Salah only earned his £200,000-a-week wages after hitting 44 goals and 16 assists in his first season at Liverpool, including a 38-game record 32 goals in the Premier League.
And he has been fine value since too, with 47 goals and 26 assists in 92 appearances since being handed his bumper new deal.
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But he was not a completely unknown quantity upon his arrival at Liverpool, despite the question marks over his signing due to his disappointing stint at Chelsea.
The previous campaign before he returned to England, he had managed 15 goals and 13 assists for Roma in Serie A as they finished just four points adrift of champions Juventus.
Yet he agreed to a modest contract of around £90,000 a week to start with – and worked his way up.
Alisson, and Virgil van Dijk, are the two players next in line for contract extensions despite already being penned down until 2024 and 2023 respectively.
Goalkeeper Alisson – despite moving to Liverpool as already one of the best goalkeepers in Europe after impressing at Roma and having since cemented himself as certainly one of the top three at the least – also earns just £90,000 a week.
The Brazilian can expect a hefty rise, but again, he has first had to earn it at Liverpool.
A crucial member of last season’s Champions League triumph and having also kept 12 clean sheets in 20 league appearances this season with the Reds on the verge of a first title triumph in 30 years, no-one would raise an eyebrow were the 27-year-old’s wages doubled.
Van Dijk is perhaps the only exception to the rule that players who join Liverpool must earn their way to a big salary, with the Dutchman thought to earn around £120,000 a week on the deal he signed back in January 2018.
Still, that was £80,000 below the club’s highest-earning player in Salah.
The towering centre-back, perhaps the best in the world in his position, is very likely to join Firmino, Mane and Salah among Liverpool’s top earners in the near future – and again, deservedly so.
No player has been more important to Klopp since his arrival two years ago, having transformed the team and given them a steely backbone which has been pivotal to their success since then.
To beat Chelsea at this stage, Liverpool would have to at least match Werner’s offered salary in London – or even beat it.
That is not happening. There is absolutely no chance Liverpool would make a brand-new signing one of their highest-paid players instantly, due to the unrest it could cause within such a tight-knit squad.
Had Liverpool acted earlier, it is perfectly feasible to think Werner – because of his desire to link up with Klopp at Anfield – would have agreed to earn significantly less than is on offer at Chelsea.
Instead, the English champions-elect opted against meeting his Leipzig release clause, which runs out on June 15 and drops to £36m in a year’s time.
And so Liverpool have conceded defeat. Werner is Chelsea’s. Whether Klopp and co. pursue another attacker to add to their arsenal remains to be seen, but it certainly won’t be one on a similar salary.
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