Timo Werner is making it very hard for Germany fans to hate him.
The 21-year-old Stuttgart-born striker plays for RB Leipzig, a controversial Bundesliga club because of its tie with a major commercial organization.
He also drew the ire of many fans when he allegedly dove in a league match against Schalke 04, and it was an action that has followed him since December last year.
Even when he stepped up for Germany and helped them lift the 2017 Confederations Cup, scoring three goals and two assists to win the Golden Boot, many fans still hate him for his performances for his club.
Last week, despite taking only four minutes to score the first goal in their 2-1 win against Czech Republic in the 2018 World Cup qualifiers, the German fans who visited Eden Arena showered him with boos when he was replaced by Emre Can in the 79th minute.
But, thanks to Germany coach Joachim Lowe and thousands of fans who flocked to Mercedes-Benz Arena, Werner might start changing the country’s perception of him.
Werner scored twice in their 6-0 drubbing of Norway and was met with cheers and standing ovation from the crowd when he was subbed out later in the fixture.
“That meant a lot to me,” said Werner.
Lowe had good reason to call out Germany fans who don’t cheer for Werner, since the Leipzig attacker is in the best position to take the mantle from the stars of the 2014 World Cup winning side.
Werner has the right mix of age, situation and environment to succeed.
Muller is 27-years-old, Mesut Ozil is 28, Lars Stindl 29 and Mario Gomez is 32. But at 21, Werner is far from his athletic prime and still has a lot to learn.
Playing for RB Leipzig, he is not as pressured to win titles as players who don the kits of Bayern Munich, Real Madrid, Barcelona and other big clubs.
He is also being coached by Miroslav Klose, one of Germany’s greatest forwards, when on international duty, and has watched how world champions conduct their businesses.
Werner might not receive proper adulation right now, but with two or three more years of performances like this, he might become the country’s most loved icon in the future.