It’s been a whirlwind few years for Germany star Serge Gnabry.
Back in 2015, he was told he “wasn’t at the level required” to play for relegation-scrambling West Brom, but fast forward four-and-a-half years and the winger has just been named Bayern Munich’s Player of the Season.
He’s even been tipped by some as the natural heir to Arjen Robben at the Bundesliga giants.
Speaking at the announcement of Bayern Munich’s partnership with Konami for eFootball PES 2020, Gnabry recognised he’s come a long way since that ill-fated loan spell under Tony Pulis.
“The past is the past. He (Pulis) had his reasons back then, whatever they were,” he said.
“Now I can reflect and say I’m proud of my journey and how I’ve made my way here.”
The German’s past is one that the world of football continues to look back on with irony, no one more so than his former-Arsenal team-mate Hector Bellerin, who summed it up in a brilliant tweet.
“I saw Hector’s tweet about it as he appears in my timeline quite a lot and I did laugh a little bit!” Gnabry said.
The German’s ascent to stardom in Bavaria has been far from straight forward, with serious injuries, indifferent loans and difficult contract decisions all threads in his expanding football tapestry.
Gnabry’s route to the Allianz Arena saw him take a leap of faith away from Arsenal in 2016, a club he joined at 16 years old and still holds in high regard: “There’s no bad blood with Arsenal from my side, not at all,” he said.
“I joined at 16 and for me they were the biggest club with a huge tradition and I can tell you as a supporter what an amazing club it is.
“In the end I didn’t get the game time so I said I need to leave and need to make my way somewhere else no matter how much I love the club, and that was the decision I made.”
When quizzed on whether he would consider a return to the Emirates in the future, Gnabry failed to rule it out – citing the prospect of being reunited with Bellerin as a major factor.
“Of course it would be fun (to play with Bellerin again) but I don’t know what’s going to happen in the future.”
“I’m really happy with the progress I’ve made and I’m happy here at Bayern – a massive club, no one can deny that. I’m very happy but you never know what’s going to happen in the future!”
Gnabry was snapped up by Bayern in 2017 after impressing with Werder Bremen, however, within weeks of his arrival, it was mutually agreed that a loan away was wise, with the form of Robben and Franck Ribery rendering them undroppable and unlikely to allow the German much game time.
Gnabry spent a campaign at Hoffenheim under the highly-respected Julian Nagelsmann – one of the brightest managerial prospects in European football.
As Arsenal covered their tracks to ensure no repeat of the contract negligence that marred Gnabry’s departure from north London, Reiss Nelson was tied down to a long-term deal before he himself spent a season at Hoffenheim working with Nagelsmann – an experience that Gnabry believes will have benefited the youngster greatly.
“Reiss would have learnt a lot in that environment,” he said.
“I had the pleasure to play under Julian and I know what he’s capable of in terms of bringing out the best in a player, so I’m sure that Reiss has had a good experience there, he’s still young and still got time to develop.
“The systems that Julian plays and the way that Hoffenheim play is always attractive and hopefully Reiss can take what he’s learnt there back to Arsenal and break through to the first-team.”
With Bayern’s public pursuits of Leroy Sane and Callum Hudson-Odoi yet to come to fruition, Gnabry is set to be an integral part of the plans at the Allianz for the forthcoming season.
However, the prospect of a new big-money arrival, one who plays in a similar position, is a challenge that the 24-year-old would relish and not shy away from.
“I would be happy with a new player coming in. Who it is? It doesn’t matter.”
“The most important thing is that he is good and can help our team and competition is part of it and is important so we can improve.”
Gnabry is keen to forge a legacy for himself at Bayern but is not overwhelmed by the prospect of becoming the ‘new Robben’ – effectively establishing himself as the next stalwart winger in Bavaria.
“Ribery and Robben for the last ten years have been a massive part of Bayern’s history and as a guy coming up you wish to have a similar career,” he said.
“Obviously you can never copy it as they were themselves and we are us, Kingsley (Coman) and me or whoever else is gonna come or not come, you stride for the best and hope to do the best in your career, but to be regarded as a legend at a club like Bayern it must feel amazing.”
Gnabry was speaking at the announcement of Bayern Munich’s partnership with eFootball PES 2020.
The Germany star is an ambassador for the upcoming release in the Konami series and will feature on the global cover of the game alongside Lionel Messi, Miralem Pjanic and Scott McTominay.
As part of the exciting partnership, 11 Bayern players have had their likeness impeccably captured, including Gnabry who will have his signature ‘stir’ celebration feature in eFootball PES 2020.
eFootball PES 2020 is released on September 10, with the demo dropping July 30 on PS4, Xbox One and PC – you can pre-order the game now.