After a circuitous route to the top, he's established himself at Bayern Munich, is a full Germany international, and takes inspiration from NBA icon James Harden. There's still plenty more to come from Serge Gnabry!
bundesliga.com brings you 10 things you need to know about the Bayern star.
1) Stuttgart foundation
Born in Stuttgart, Gnabry was snapped up at the tender age of 12 by three-time Bundesliga champions VfB. Making his way through the ranks, the youngster would play alongside a number of future Bundesliga stars also coming through the club’s famed academy. Among those he brushed shoulders with back then were future Bayern teammate Joshua Kimmich, ex-RB Leipzig man Timo Werner, and Union Berlin's Rani Khedira.
2) Following in father’s footsteps?
Gnabry was almost destined to be a professional footballer considering his father Jean-Hermann was an international for his native Cote d’Ivoire. Or was he? Rumours began to circle around the time of Gnabry Jr.’s signing for Werder Bremen that this may have been an early example of ‘fake news’. Serge would go on to clarify the situation in an interview with Bremen’s club magazine.
“I don’t know where these rumours about him came from. It’s just a lie: he never played professional football.” Despite statistic websites still crediting Gnabry Sr. with appearances at both club and international level, the then 21-year-old joked: “We could leave him that honour, but it’s just not true.”
3) London calling
Premier League outfit Arsenal caught whiff of the electric forward's talents in 2010, but had to wait until his 16th birthday before formally welcoming the U16 Germany international to London. After less than a season playing regular football for the U18s, Gnabry was promoted to the Arsenal reserves.
4) First-team breakthrough
First-team football swiftly followed in 2012/13, with Arsenal head coach Arsene Wenger handing Gnabry his senior debut in the first round of the League Cup. He later became the Gunners' second-youngest debutant in Premier League history, aged 17 years and 98 days, and also featured in the group stages of the UEFA Champions League against Schalke.
Gnabry scored his first Premier League goal at the third time of asking, in a 2-1 win over Swansea City on 28 September 2013. He registered an assist in his next outing against Crystal Palace, but a season of great promise met an abrupt end five-and-a-half months later due to a knee injury. In that 2013/14 campaign he also featured twice in the Champions League, strangely enough against Bundesliga sides Borussia Dortmund and Bayern. Gnabry came on during a 1-1 draw at the Allianz Arena in March 2014 - one of the Gunners’ few positive results against their European tormentors.
5) Olympic medallist
A loan spell at West Bromwich Albion saw him make just three competitive appearaces in 2015/16, but - such a difficult campaign notwithstanding - there was never any doubt that Gnabry would make Germany's 2016 Olympic Games squad. He had been an ever-present for his country at youth level throughout his stop-start spell in England, and it did not take long for the Stuttgart-born sensation to rediscover his best form on the big stage in Rio de Janeiro. Gnabry finished as the tournament's top scorer with six goals alongside future Bremen teammate Nils Petersen - two ahead of Brazil’s Neymar - as Germany took home a silver medal.
Watch: Serge Gnabry's Bundesliga Mixtape
6) The Özil fan club
Gnabry has a rather embarrassing story regarding fan-boy antics towards former Arsenal teammate Mesut Özil.
“It’s a funny story. He was involved in a tournament near my hometown when I was about 10, so I always went to watch it,” said Gnabry of the incident. “He was the best player at the tournament and I got a picture with him back then. But you better not ask him about it - otherwise he’ll be too happy!”
The 2014 World Cup winner has been more than just a role model for Gnabry down the years. The winger in fact went to Özil and defender Per Mertesacker for advice on a possible move to Bremen following the duo’s previous experience at the club.
"Per and Mesut have only said positive things about the club," he said at the time of signing for Werder. "But it was my decision alone in the end to come here. I had very good talks with the management. I've come to get playing time, to develop further and to help the team."
It proved a wise decision, as Gnabry got 11 league goals for the Green-Whites in the 2016/17 season.
7) A debut to savour
Gnabry scored his first Bundesliga goal in only his second appearance in Germany's top flight against Borussia Mönchengladbach, and he soon struck again against Darmstadt, Leipzig, and Schalke. A maiden international call-up swiftly followed, even if it did take a while to sink in.
"[Joachim Löw] called me up but I had to think for a bit whether it was true or not," Gnabry told German media company RND. "There are so many hoax calls from radio shows, and I really didn’t want to be a victim of that."
Gnabry was probably still pinching himself when Löw handed him his senior international debut against San Marino on 11 November 2016. An early goal settled the nerves, while two more saw him become the first Germany debutant to grab a hat-trick since Dieter Müller in the 1976 UEFA European Championship semi-final against Yugoslavia.
8) Goal of the Month
A move to champions Bayern followed that successful season, where he was immediately loaned out to Hoffenheim - reportedly at his own request. Gnabry's time at TSG didn't get off to the expected flyer as injuries limited his playing time, but he signalled his arrival in Sinsheim on 2 December 2017 with his first goals for the club against Leipzig. The second was a lob from some 45 yards over goalkeeper Peter Gulacsi, and was named Goal of the Month by German broadcasters.
Gnabry's rise continued in the 2018/19 season in his first full campaign at Bayern. Matching his tally with Hoffenheim, he was the only player other than Robert Lewandowski to reach double figures for goals scored (10). Each one was celebrated with his trademark James Harden-inspired "stirring it up" gesture, while he was later named as the club's Player of the Season.
Watch: Gnabry's long-range stunner against Leipzig
9) A four-goal salvo and a treble winner
The 2019/20 season will be fondly remembered by Gnabry. Not only did he get 12 league goals to help Bayern retain the Bundesliga title, but he also scored in a 4-2 win over Bayer Leverkusen in the DFB Cup final.
Despite those impressive achievements, the direct and pacy attacker saved his best that year for the Champions League. He scored four times in Bayern's stunning 7-2 win at Tottenham Hotspur in the group stage, before adding two more during a 3-0 success at Chelsea on his side's next visit to London for the last 16. The coronavirus pandemic shut down football for several months after that, but Gnabry was every bit as effective on his return. He netted in Bayern's staggering 8-2 quarter-final victory over Barcelona, and then got two more goals in the 3-0 win over Lyon in the last four. Bayern edged Paris Saint-Germain 1-0 in the final to complete a remarkable treble, with Gnabry contributing nine goals in 10 Champions League games that year.
10) Common Goal
In October 2017, Gnabry became the second Bundesliga player after Mats Hummels to sign up to the Common Goal initiative, pledging to donate at least one per cent of his wages to a collective fund managed by non-governmental organisation streetfootballworld.
"One per cent is not a huge figure but it can make a huge impact if we commit to it as a team," Gnabry said. "I want to make giving back a part of football and help football feel good about itself again. I want to change the game for good."
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