Nils Petersen (r.) says he's always been a big fan of Bayern Munich and Germany ace, Serge Gnabry (l.). - © 2016 Getty Images
Nils Petersen (r.) says he's always been a big fan of Bayern Munich and Germany ace, Serge Gnabry (l.). - © 2016 Getty Images
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"Serge Gnabry was always very ambitious" - Nils Petersen on Bayern Munich and Germany star's inexorable rise

Freiburg striker Nils Petersen says he is not surprised by Serge Gnabry's explosive form in the colours of Bayern Munich and Germany, describing his former international teammate as "a man for the big occasion".

Petersen played in the Germany team that won silver at the 2016 Summer Olympics, joint-top-scoring alongside Gnabry with six goals.

The duo have not lined up together since, but Petersen continues to admire Gnabry - with 31 goals across his previous three full seasons of Bundesliga football, as well as 10 in 11 senior internationals for Germany - from afar.

"I have to admit it's so impressive," Petersen told Sport1 of Gnabry, who wrote headlines recently with his four-goal hand in Bayern's 7-2 rout of Tottenham Hotspur in the UEFA Champions League. "The consistency he's shown to break through at Bayern is incredible - especially seeing as it was by no means a given he would, considering the competition for places there and in the national team.

"That said, he was always incredibly disciplined and ambitious. He saved us with a 90th-minute goal in the group stage at the Olympics, and is a man for the big occasion. When the chips are down, he's someone who can get you out of a hole."

Watch: Serge Gnabry has come a long way since struggling to get a game for West Brom!

As Petersen alluded to, Gnabry's form since swapping a life on the sidelines at English Premier League outfit Arsenal for the Bundesliga in summer 2016 has been nothing short of exceptional. He earned a move to Bayern on the back of an 11-goal season at Werder Bremen, and struck a further 10 times whilst on loan at Hoffenheim in 2017/18.

Murmurings that Gnabry would only play a bit-part role at Bayern were quickly dispelled as he tallied 13 goals and nine assists to help the record champions to a 2018/19 Bundesliga and DFB Cup double.

Bayern's Player of the Season has duly picked up where he left off this term, notching five goals and four assists in nine outings, while Germany coach Joachim Löw recently proclaimed, "Serge will always play under me".

Petersen, by contrast, last featured for Germany in the September 2018 friendly against Peru. Despite enjoying regular football in the Bundesliga with Freiburg, the 30-year-old believes his chances of earning a recall and linking up with Gnabry for Die Mannschaft are slim.

"I don't think it'll happen again," said the two-time full Germany international. "Obviously you still have dreams, and it is still possible. If it happens, I'll seize it with both hands, but I think it's a way off right now. The team has changed a lot, I've turned 30. It's not a problem for me, but I'm very grateful to have been involved."

Petersen says his short time at Gnabry's current club, Bayern, was another worthwhile experience. He spent a year in Munich, after topping the Bundesliga 2 scoring charts whilst at Energie Cottbus in 2010/11, but made just 15 appearances for Germany's biggest club before moving to Bremen the following summer.

"I learnt a few things that I've taken with me," Petersen recalled. "The constant pressure of having to win - hardly any win was a surprise, but rather a given. You're under pressure to play to your limit on the pitch and in training.

"I was still young, and it was a completely different environment. I didn't contribute as much as I have at other clubs, but the experience improved me as a player."

Petersen is loving life at Freiburg, but is unsure if he'll play for Germany again. - 2019 Getty Images

Like Gnabry, Petersen's Bundesliga breakthrough came at Bremen. The former Bayern striker scored 11 goals in his debut season at the Weserstadion, as well as seven in his second. He has struck at least nine times in his subsequent four full campaigns as a Freiburg player, and has already scored twice in seven games in 2018/19 for a Freiburg team riding the crest of a wave towards the top of the standings.

"We're on 14 points after seven matches, but if the two-point gap to the top widens people will ask how could anyone have thought Freiburg would keep it up?," Petersen commented. "We know we're a good team and can beat anyone, but we haven't had a dip yet or played in any games that have gone completely against us.

"It's bound to happen - and then we'll see what we're made of. Then you can decide if we're good enough for a European finish. If we're still there or thereabouts after Matchday 27, then we can start to dream about [the Champions League]."