Having moved from Germany to England at the age of sixteen, Serge Gnabry is well aware of the sacrifices needed to become a professional footballer. Now, after six years, and several loan spells it seems that the Bayern Munich winger is reaching his potential with the Bundesliga giants.
Gnabry shares a similar story with a raft of younger English players, led by Borussia Dortmund attacker Jaydon Sancho who in the last two years have decided to trade limited opportunities at home for the promise of more game-time and the chance to play in different football culture abroad.
Reflecting back on his time with Arsenal, the German international stressed that the experience was important in his overall development.
“At the beginning very good, I played at a young age and obliviously the second part wasn’t as good as I didn’t get enough game time, but overall the experience I had of going out of my comfort zone."
After a frustrating loan stint with West Brom during the 2015-16 season, Gnabry returned to Germany looking to kick on with Werder Breman after finding first-team opportunities increasingly difficult in England.
The move paid off with the winger quickly becoming a key player in the squad and registering his highest return in front of goal as a professional.
Bayern moved quickly to sign Gnabry after just one season in Breman, viewing the player as a long-term replacement for Arjen Robben and Franck Ribery in the side.
A loan move to Hoffenheim was quickly arranged and Gnabry linked up with young coach Julian Nargelsmann; who according to Gnabry was crucial in his development utilizing his pace in a number of different positions as a false nine, on the wing and as a playmaker. Whilst deploying a brand of frantic, attacking football.
After just one season away from Munich, Gnabry returned and stepped up, contributing 13 goals in all competitions and appearing in 31 Bundesliga games. Despite taking a longer road to regular first-team football; Gnabry is still thankful for the experience in England as a vital in his own development.
“At first you leave your comfort zone you step into a new world and that only makes you grow up a little bit faster, you have to adapt and go out of your comfort zone.”
That move away from his comfort zone in Stuttgart has certainly paid off for Gnabry who was named player of the year in last season in a Bayern side who are looking to continue their domestic dominance.
Gnabry was an unused substitute as Bayern swatted aside Mainz 6-1 to stay second in the Bundesliga. Whilst rivals Dortmund dropped points later in the evening with a 3-1 defeat to newly-promoted Union Berlin, the German international believes that Bayern should remain confident of winning an eighth consecutive league crown despite their rivals strengthening their side significantly in the summer.
“They (Dortmund) have a strong team, and added some good players and look good. For us last year we let too many points go in the first part of the season to have a nine-point gap which I hope this season is not going to happen, our aim is to get the title again.”
Whilst Gnabry also praised Borussia Dortmund winger Jaydon Sancho on making the leap to the Bundesliga, agreeing that the move was the right one for the now England international. Whilst also insisting that Germany is an ideal starting point for young English players.
“Jaydon Sancho is a big player in England now, he took the step, took the chance and obliviously, in the end, was the right choice for him so everyone needs to know that for themselves. Germany is known to have a good youth system and youth development so why not.”
After taking the road less travelled, Serge Gnabry will be looking to aid FCB on their hunt for trophies both in the Bundesliga and in Champions League.