Serge Gnabry has been banging in the goals for Bayern Munich and Germany, and he's not even a centre forward - or is he? - © 2019 Getty Images
Serge Gnabry has been banging in the goals for Bayern Munich and Germany, and he's not even a centre forward - or is he? - © 2019 Getty Images

Bayern Munich and Germany forward Serge Gnabry: The (un)natural successor to Robert Lewandowski AND Miroslav Klose?

Bayern Munich and Germany, united by the same problem: how to replace a prolific goalscorer? Robert Lewandowski, when he eventually hangs up his boots, for one; the already retired Miroslav Klose for the other. The answer could be the same for both: Serge Gnabry.

That there have been players who have come and gone in the hope of filling Klose's boots is no surprise as his legacy is weighty. The former Werder Bremen and Bayern striker ended his silverware-stocked career with 71 international goals - that's a Germany record - bowing out on the glorious swansong of the 2014 FIFA World Cup win.

Klose started modestly with two goals in his first six appearances for his country; with his goal in Sunday's EURO 2020 qualifier against the Netherlands, while Gnabry has now found the net five times in his opening six senior internationals.

Timo Werner has long been touted as the natural successor to Klose as Germany’s No. 9, but the rocket-fuelled RB Leipzig man has been overtaken in the pecking order at national level by Gnabry, who has given Joachim Löw good reason to make him the go-to man for goals right now.

"Klose time's up, you should be looking at Gnabry now!" Miroslav Klose is Germany's last prolific central striker. - getty images

Not that Gnabry and Werner are necessarily competing for the same place. The pair featured in a three-pronged frontline with Manchester City’s Leroy Sane in the 3-0 win over Russia in November and linked up promisingly once more in the 2-2 UEFA Nations League draw with the Dutch that followed.

With Sane and Werner either side, it was Gnabry who played the central role, though, as he effected the switch from the wider position he occupies with Bayern — due to Lewandowski still being the focal point of the Bundesliga champions’ attack — to the heart of the Germany front line with ease.

His style is very different to that of both Lewandowski and Klose. He does not possess their rare ability to hold the ball and opposing defences up at will, nor perhaps quite yet their devastating predatory instincts.

But as Bayern’s second top scorer this season — behind Lewandowski — they are clearly there to be honed, and his other qualities suggest he could become rather Germany’s answer to Thierry Henry.

Robert Lewandowski and Serge Gnabry (l-r.) are teammates now, but could the Polish master be training the German apprentice for a future No.9 role? - 2019 Getty Images

The parallels are clear. Blessed with the jet-propelled pace of Henry — himself a winger converted with such devastating effect into a great white shark of a goalscorer by Arsene Wenger — the Germany international has an Arsenal connection too. In contrast to the French great, however, Gnabry had to leave the English Premier League outfit to make the breakthrough.

"With him, we have a weapon in our game. He has pace and knows how to make goals," gushed Bayern’s sporting director Hasan Salihamidzic after seeing Gnabry’s match-winning brace in the Matchday 13 triumph at Bremen. 'He is showing that more and more."

He showed it for his goal against Russia, when he accelerated electrifyingly onto a Kai Havertz through ball, making the 2018 FIFA World Cup hosts’ international-class defenders look as laboured as pub team stoppers.

Watch: Serge Gnabry's double against Bremen

With the likes of Leverkusen prodigy Havertz, Real Madrid’s timelessly silky Toni Kroos and Bayern teammate Leon Goretzka all able to spot — and more importantly play — a well-weighted through ball, Gnabry’s breakneck fleet of foot is a potential match-winning asset.

But as he showed against the Netherlands on Sunday, he has so much more. Just like Henry.

The fact Bayern boss Niko Kovac has used him mostly on the flanks this season is not simply to shoehorn another world-class talent into the record German champions' team, but speaks volumes for Gnabry's ability to make as well as take goals. That is a trait he shares with Henry, but it is in the latter category that he could become the French marksman's natural heir.

There was more than a shade of deja vu about the way he kept Virgil van Dijk guessing so much. The Liverpool defender was in three minds before he fashioned a delicious curling shot into the far top corner with lashings of finesse. Wind back the clock 15 years, think the blue shirt of France or Arsenal red, and you get the very attractive picture. Well, attractive if you're not Van Dijk…

Serge Gnabry (r.) had Liverpool and Netherlands defender Virgil Van Dijk (l.) on toast at the Johan Cruyff ArenA. - getty images

"Serge played very very well up front," gushed Löw after Gnabry's front-line-leading masterclass in Amsterdam before suggesting the Bayern man is developing some of the physicality required for the role and exhibited so impressively by Lewandowski and Klose.

"He held the ball up well against Van Dijk, which isn't so easy. He really used his body well."

"I first tried to go outside, but Van Dijk closed that off," said Gnabry of his goal, Germany's second in their last-gasp 3-2 win in the Dutch capital. "Then I got past him on the inside. That it went like that into the top corner was just a dream."

Germany and Bayern fans, too, will be pinching themselves as it seems the dream of finally finding a worthy successor to their goalgetters supreme is becoming a very exciting reality.