Serge Gnabry has become an indispensable player for Bayern Munich and Germany. - © getty images
Serge Gnabry has become an indispensable player for Bayern Munich and Germany. - © getty images

How Serge Gnabry went from West Brom reject to Germany's best player


How do you go from being told you're not good enough to becoming a key player for club and country? Just ask Bayern Munich's Serge Gnabry, who has proven his West Bromwich Albion doubters wrong to arguably become Germany's most feared attacker.

"Serge has come here to play games but he just hasn't been for me, at the moment, at that level to play the games." It seems an extraordinary misjudgment with hindsight, but that was the view of West Brom manager Tony Pulis of Gnabry in October 2015, having taken the then-20-year-old on loan from Arsenal.

Fast-forward five years and Gnabry appears unplayable. He's had a direct hand in over 80 goals in little over three seasons at Bayern, and is Germany's highest scorer of the post-2018 FIFA World Cup cycle with 17 goals in 28 appearances.

"He's dynamic and a real threat in front of goal," Germany and former Bayern coach Hansi Flick said of Gnabry. "He's on his way to reaching world-class level."

Watch: The inexorable rise of Serge Gnabry

So how did Gnabry get to where he is, having been deemed surplus to requirements at West Brom? Well, arguably it is thanks to that experience that the Stuttgart-born attacker has developed into the player he is today.

"I tried my best at West Brom and it didn't work out," he told the Mail on Sunday. "Mentally for me, in that time at West Brom, I said to myself: 'Even though I have zero chance of playing, all I can do is work hard.' You always know your worth, off the pitch or on the pitch. I knew my capabilities. But I would say the mental side progressed really high during that time and helped me be who I am now."

That new-found strength also helped Gnabry take a difficult decision at the end of his spell in the West Midlands in 2015/16, when he opted to leave Arsenal and join Werder Bremen. He has not looked back since.

Watch: Gnabry's Bundesliga highlight reel

Gnabry plundered 11 goals in 27 Bundesliga games for the Green-Whites the following season, enough to persuade Bayern to secure his signature.

However, the attacker was aware he only had one full year of first-team football behind him and requested to be loaned to Hoffenheim in order to better equip himself for the challenge of competing with the likes of Arjen Robben, Franck Ribery and Kingsley Coman at the Allianz Arena.

It proved to be another wise decision and working under a shrewd coach in Julian Nagelsmann in 2017/18, Gnabry continued to develop. He learned to play in a variety of positions, including centre forward, across the midfield and even as a wing-back, and again reached double figures by scoring 10 in 22 games, including one sensational long-range effort against RB Leipzig.

Watch: Gnabry's wonderstrike against Leipzig

That was followed up by his barnstorming maiden season at Bayern in 2018/19, where he became just the third player in Bundesliga history to hit double figures for three different clubs in consecutive seasons.

Gnabry was voted as Bayern's Player of the Season for his efforts, beating the likes of Robert Lewandowski, Thomas Müller and Joshua Kimmich to the accolade after providing six assists and 13 goals in 42 competitive outings.

Anything but a one-hit-wonder, he's reached double figures for single-season goals in every Bundesliga campaign since, and has already struck four times in 11 competitive games up to the October 2021 international break.

Those numbers are reflected on the international stage, where Gnabry brought up his 20th goal in only his 30th senior appearance in Germany's 2-1 win over Romania in 2022 FIFA World Cup qualifying.

He's contributed six assists in that time, and has netted four in as many games since Flick replaced Jochim Löw in the hotseat.

There can be no arguing that he is, in the words of Pulis, very much "at the level". The "world-class level" Flick touched on during Bayern's 2020 sextuple-winning campaign.