Serge Gnabry is now a two-time Bundesliga champion and reigning UEFA Champions League champion, and the 25-year-old is adamant that West Bromwich Albion’s once-ill-fated loan spell was the result of a player who now has his sights on lifting the Ballon d’Or one day.
“Serge came here to play games, but he wasn’t just playing games for me at the moment, at that level.”
For these words, directed in October 2015 at a 20-year-old Gnabry on loan at English Premier League outfit West Bromwich Albion, Welsh coach Tony Pulis will forever be remembered for these words.
Gnabry played just 12 minutes in a single Premier League game under Pulis throughout a six-month stay in the Midlands and was sent back to parent club Arsenal with his future in question.
For certain young players, this kind of chastening experience at the highest level of football might easily have marked the beginning of the end of their careers.
Gnabry, however, thinks he would never have known the high of August’s triple-sealing Champions League triumph without this low.
On Sunday, Gnabry told The Mail, “At the end of the day, if I didn’t go to West Brom, if it didn’t go the way it did, I wouldn’t be here at Bayern Munich right now, I wouldn’t be a Champions League winner, I wouldn’t have had five trophies in one season, and I would be playing, I guess, in the best team in the world.”
“At West Brom, it didn’t go well, but I just kept working and that’s one of the things I’ve adopted: I always keep working.”
Gnabry defines the time of his career as making him “tougher” as a player, and what was the loss of English football was Germany’s benefit.