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While there is no easy path to the top level of professional football, some players are forced to endure a little more “character building” than others.
A brief review of Serge Gnabry’s list of previous employers will hardly leave you teary-eyed for the valiant battle he fought on his way to Bayern Munich, having appeared for some stellar teams struggling at the top end of their respective leagues. , including Arsenal, Werder. Bremen and Hoffenheim, although a campaign with West Brom in 2015/16 certainly erases the summary.
Tony Pulis would allow the German only twelve minutes of Premier League football during his time at The Hawthorns, before parent club Arsenal opted to exercise their right to withdraw him in January.
Not to be deterred by the snub of a team that managed less than one goal per game during their time on their roster, Gnabry took a leap of faith as he embarked on a move back to his homeland with Bremen in August 2016, and just four years later, he sits proud at the pinnacle of world football: a German champion, a European champion, a truly world-class player.
While it would be entirely justified for Gnabry to recall his spell with the Baggies as a missed opportunity to showcase his talent in the Premier League, the 25-year-old does not hold that grudge and instead sees the bad move as a stepping stone to his career. , as he told the Daily mail in August.
“I did my best at West Brom and it didn’t work out. Mentally to myself, at that point at West Brom, I thought to myself, ‘Even though I have no chance to play, all I can do is work hard.’ That mentality he stayed with me today and helped me become a Bayern player. “
– Serge gnabry
Since his move to Germany in 2016, Gnabry has scored double figures in each of his four full Bundesliga seasons, although it was his move to Die Roten in 2017 that really propelled him to the status of a world-class right forward.
Just weeks before his 22nd birthday, Gnabry was captured by the Bavarian giants and immediately sent on loan to Hoffenheim, where he would head the club’s charge to a place in the Champions League, the first time they accomplished the feat. .
Returning to the Allianz Arena in the summer of 2018, there would be no more temporary moves for the talented youngster.
Bayern was his home now, and he has made himself comfortable ever since.
Being tasked with carrying the hopes of one of the giants of European football at such a tender age is one thing, though considering the circumstances in which Gnabry found himself during his first season at the club, the enormity of his success at Bayern becomes evident.
The Bavarians were going through a transitional period as they searched for replacements for their infamous duo ‘Robbery’. Both Arjen Robben and Franck Ribery had been mainstays in Bayern’s starting eleven for roughly a decade, and the former’s goal record in particular was key in their quest for success.
However, with the duo approaching 30, the need for a change was clear, and Gnabry was given the unenviable task of replacing one of the most feared wingers in European football. Well, we say it was an “unenviable task”, but the German international seems to have enjoyed every second.
In a team brimming with talent, the youngster would be named Bayern Player of the Season in his debut campaign with the club, with his ability to shift his weight smoothly while fooling defenders offering a different enigma to the man he replaced in Bayern’s right wing. .
Unpredictability is a facet that most players have in their game, however Gnabry is not unpredictable in the sense that you have no idea if he will perform or not, but more than defenders they have no idea what. address will change or if it will. it will shoot or sting inward.
“He is world class. There is no one else with his skills in the Bundesliga. He can shoot with his left or right foot.”
– Niko Kovac
Having secured his first career league title with Bayern in 2019, Gnabry’s goals and creativity had already made him a fan favorite at the Allianz Arena, but the man Pulis had judged was not good enough alone. three years ago he was in no mood to rest. on their laurels.
While securing the German title has become almost an expectation rather than an achievement at Bayern these days, the club’s performances in the Champions League are what truly define their season.
During the ‘Robo’ era, Bayern secured European glory only once in the couple’s decade together at the club, but Gnabry would accomplish the feat in just his second season at Bayern, with the former Arsenal player proving be pivotal when Die Roten achieved his sixth European. crown, with Gnabry finishing the tournament with nine goals and two assists.
The Champions League trophy added to the successes of the Bundesliga and DFB-Pokal, marking an astonishing year for Bayern as they recorded only their second continental treble.
It seems utterly absurd to think that just five years ago, Pulis looked back at his bench and decided that Callum McManaman was a better choice than a man who has now become one of the best right forwards in the world.
But that’s football. Gnabry’s time at West Brom may be seen as a failure on paper, but it seems to have helped instill a maturity and mindset that has seen him become a true world-class player.