Rock, paper, scissors

Maxi Wöber doesn’t want to drive as fast as Rasmus Kristensen

Written by: Rob Conlon
Rasmus Kristensen and Maxi Wober challenging for an aerial ball at their old, taurine obsessed club. They're wearing all white kits with 'Red Bull' across the chest, so maybe if you squint into an alternate reality... actually let's not go there

When Jesse Marsch talked about English football’s obsession with transfers in his latest press conference, he wasn’t just talking about the media. Arsenal supporters spent their New Year’s Day analysing Mykhalo Mudryk’s hotel slippers, gym equipment, and smoke alarm trying to work out if he was in England to negotiate a move from Shakhtar Donetsk. Leeds fans have a proud record in recent years of tracking flights, deciphering vehicle registrations, and reading the tea leaves for any clues about potential signings.

I’m no different, which is why I’ve been trying to learn more about Maxi Wöber than that he looks like a cross between Leo Messi and Paul Dano. If numbers and graphs are your thing, The Athletic have you covered. If cold hard facts warm your cockles, Leeds’ official website published ten of them on the day Wöber’s signing was officially announced, ending on the nugget, ‘On January 3rd 2023, Wober signed for Leeds United on a four-and-a-half year deal.’

Like any serious football blogger, I went straight to YouTube. I’m not much of an EDM fan, so I couldn’t face the longest highlights compilation. Imagining I was scrolling through the wine list at a restaurant, I rejected the shortest and chose the second shortest. Three things stood out: 1) he takes good free-kicks, even if only one of them on the compilation actually went in the goal; 2) he once made a defensive clearance in his own penalty area with an overhead kick, which is the coolest way to clear a football and should earn the respect of Diego Llorente; 3) YouTube makes him look like more of an actual left-back than Pascal Struijk.

Fizzy Salzburg’s documentary series provided further context. Amid lots of shots of Jesse Marsch drinking sugar-free Red Bull, one episode focuses on Wöber’s signing. It begins with a scene that will leave Leeds fans twitching: the Salzburg franchise’s recruitment team fretting over whether they will complete the transfer after Maxi has missed his flight to Austria.

Wöber makes the move, but it’s not exactly a celebratory occasion. Maxi grew up as a Rapid Wien supporter, beginning his career with his boyhood club. Rapid fans are understandably not too keen on highly-caffeinated bull’s piss, putting Wöber in an awkward position. His personal number is leaked, and he is bombarded with threats and insults: Judas; Rapid was your family, you have no character; the block will tear you apart; money-hungry pig; dirty traitor. Maxi does the sensible thing and deletes his social media, and presumably changes his number. I’m no fan of the taurine, but that hasn’t stopped me enjoying Tyler Adams and Brenden Aaronson playing for Leeds, and Wöber’s mentality is admirable. “I don’t have to justify to any Rapid fan what I do with my career, with my life,” he says.

It was all quite heavy, until I remembered I’ve inadvertently written about Wöber before, when discovering Rasmus Kristensen finds Brenden Aaronson annoying and would rather own a snake than a spider because they’re “cooler”. Rasmus is paired with Wöber in a game of ‘match me if you can’ in a video on Fizzy Salzburg’s YouTube channel. They were neighbours when teammates at Ajax and Salzburg, and will be neighbours again in Leeds, so this is where we learn about the real human being behind the energy drink. Good news: I like him!

The early signs are promising. I want to be able to trust my defenders, and Wöber shows no embarrassment in admitting Rasmus drives faster than him. “He drives a little riskier than me,” Maxi says, “let’s put it that way.” They both agree Wöber is the more intelligent, “because it’s the truth, and you know it.” Rasmus is no longer so bold. “I knew it,” he replies.

Maxi refuses to answer who is more popular among the squad, but says he expects Rasmus is voting for himself. Kristensen is sitting behind him, grinning, voting for himself. Humility goes a long way in Leeds, and so do deep pockets. Asked who pays the bill in a restaurant more often, Wöber says it is impossible to answer because they always play rock, paper, scissors to decide. He responds so quickly and with such insistence I suspect Maxi invented that rule himself to trick Rasmus into paying. Kristensen counters by saying sometimes the person who doesn’t drive pays, which makes me wonder whether Wöber is willing to risk a lift from Rasmus if it means he doesn’t have to get his wallet out.

Back to football, both agree Rasmus is a tougher tackler. “I’m not better,” he says, “just more dangerous.” We’ve not seen much of Kristensen the enforcer at Leeds, but it prompts a chuckle and raise of an eyebrow from the more responsible Maxi: “More dangerous?” Asked who is the more talented player, both agree once more. “No doubt,” says Rasmus, pointing to Wöber.

Leeds have acted urgently in signing Wöber at the start of the window. Perhaps there was urgency on both sides of the deal. Maxi suggests if Rasmus was a professional athlete other than a footballer, he would be a darts player, leading a chant of, “Stand up if you love the darts.” Moving to England at the start of January gave Maxi just enough time to get down to Ally Pally for the final of the World Darts Championship. Now I’m scanning the fancy dress costumes in the crowd, trying to spot a Leo Messi lookalike, intrigued by one of the tables near the stage just to the right of the players. Wöber doesn’t drive fast enough to be Mario, but he’d make a good Luigi. ⬢

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