Timo Werner was a transfer coup. Liverpool wanted him and Chelsea got him, and, as the teams prepared to meet on Sunday, Frank Lampard made it clear he could not be happier with the explosive start made by the man they call ‘Turbo’.
‘He’s incredibly talented,’ gushed Lampard. ‘He’s robust, so I’ve no doubt he can handle the Premier League and the size of the opposition, and he’s very low maintenance. He comes in, he trains, he works hard, he lives right and he wants to come here and be a success.’
Chelsea’s head coach recalled conversations with Werner ahead of his £54million move from RB Leipzig, and how he liked to delve into social media accounts of his transfer targets to check details about their personality.
Chelsea and Liverpool are set to renew rivalries on Sunday after their last very heated clash
Frank Lampard has a new weapon for Liverpool on Sunday in the form of Timo Werner
When Werner spoke this week, he supported this image of sensible young professional, explaining how he was gripped by Lampard’s ‘outlook’ and inside info from Antonio Rudiger, his international team-mate now helping him navigate the complexities of London’s Congestion Charge.
‘Important help, otherwise I’d be getting a bill every day,’ noted Werner, before discussing his nickname, running 100m in 11.1 seconds in his mid-teens and surmising that he’s probably ‘a bit faster’ at 24.
Kai Havertz was talking, too, revealing how it was always his ‘dream’ to play for Chelsea and promising not to be weighed-down by a record £89m fee to sign him from Bayer Leverkusen.
Werner is hungry to score his first Premier League goal on Sunday against Liverpool
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As Liverpool confirmed the signing of Thiago Alcantara from Bayern Munich and made a move for Diogo Jota of Wolves, the Londoners were rolling out the firepower like a Soviet-style parade through Red Square.
Was it a symbolic if unusually subtle two-fingered salute from those at the Bridge? Or pure coincidence?
The relationship between the clubs has been prickly at times, even if both managers were at pains to stress no bitterness lingered from an angry touchline exchange at Anfield two months ago. ‘There’s nothing in it for me,’ said Lampard. ‘The competitive nature of the 90 minutes can always slightly boil over.
Chelsea snapped up Werner for £54m despite interest in the striker from Jurgen Klopp's side
‘What he’s done at Liverpool has been incredible. The respect I have for Jurgen Klopp will never change.’
Klopp, too, was keen to end any notion of a simmering personal feud. ‘I have no problems, none at all with Frank Lampard,’ he said.
‘He’s probably a nice guy, I don’t know because I don’t know him privately and he doesn’t know me.’
The Liverpool manager blamed the media for stoking his comments about the post- pandemic transfer activity of those clubs ‘owned by countries and oligarchs’.
Lampard’s response at the time was to feign amusement and reel off a list of Liverpool signings. Virgil van Dijk, Alisson Becker, Fabinho, Naby Keita, Sadio Mane and Mo Salah were ‘incredible players’, he said, and they came at ‘very high prices’.
All of which might have been interpreted differently had it not been for July, when Chelsea’s head coach launched an X-rated tirade at Klopp’s assistant Pep Lijnders because he was ‘smiling’ and ‘smirking’ and, in his view, breaking the ‘code’ of the touchline.
Chelsea have been very busy this summer with Kai Havertz becoming their record signing
Lampard warned Liverpool about getting ‘too arrogant’ and Klopp responded with a patronising dressing down, about how ‘he has to learn’ not to take touchline disagreements into the public arena.
The flashpoint rekindled the spirit of a compelling rivalry, which emerged between the clubs in 2004-05 when Jose Mourinho and Rafa Benitez first locked in combat and Lampard was the goal threat at the heart of Chelsea’s midfield.
The teams met 24 times in five years, often for high stakes and with Mourinho stirring trouble and trying to lure Steven Gerrard to Stamford Bridge.
Klopp and Lampard have both made comments about the other team's high-priced signings
‘As a player I felt the adrenalin for a game at this level,’ said Lampard. ‘A team like Liverpool would always put more on the game. Chelsea were competing to win the leagues and Liverpool not so much. In the Champions League, we drew each other a lot and those games were ultra- competitive and difficult for us.
‘In the last few years, Liverpool have been fighting at the top and last year they win it. We are trying to improve, trying to close the gap. Both squads, coaches and fan-bases are very driven to win. That’s what the Premier League is all about.’
Chelsea are in combat mode. They will resist the urge to say it but they will have sights on the top of the Premier League after their recruitment drive. Lampard will be keen to land an early blow on the champions and he will look to ‘Turbo’ to lead the charge.