Berlin - There are not many players who can make one of the world's best
defenders look average, but two weeks ago, Bayern Munich and Germany
prodigy Serge Gnabry did just that.
A dip of the shoulder and a quick shift of weight was all it took for
Gnabry to dance past the Netherlands' Virgil van Dijk and whip the ball
into the top corner in Germany's Euro 2020 qualifier last month.
The goal was just the latest proof that Gnabry is a young player on the verge of stardom.
The 23-year-old winger has enjoyed a glistening first season at
Bayern since arriving last summer, and the hype has hit fever pitch. In
recent weeks, Gnabry has been making headlines with everything from his
18-yard screamers to his unusual eating habits.
On Saturday, he will line up in perhaps the most important game of
his career so far, as Bayern host Borussia Dortmund in a decisive clash
in the Bundesliga title race.
"It's the biggest game of the season, and the biggest game in
Germany," Gnabry said in an interview with the Bundesliga website last
"Even when I was playing in England, I used to watch Bayern Dortmund games on TV."
Gnabry has come a long way since emerging as a young talent in
English football. Poached by Arsenal as a 16-year-old, he struggled with
injuries during his time in England and made just 11 appearances in the
Premier League, three of them during an ill-fated loan spell at West
Yet since returning to his home country in 2016, Gnabry has
blossomed. After successful spells at Werder Bremen and Hoffenheim, he
is a first team regular at Bayern.
"Serge is an incredibly dynamic player on the ball," said Bayern
coach Niko Kovac last February, after Gnabry scored twice in a German
Cup tie against Hertha Berlin.
Alongside players such as Leon Goretzka and Niklas Suele, Gnabry is a key part of Kovac's plan to rejuvenate the Bayern squad.
With veteran winger Arjen Robben set to leave at the end of the
season, Gnabry has staked his claim as a natural successor on Bayern's
During Robben's recent injury struggles, the youngster has stepped up
with seven goals and five assists in the Bundesliga this season.
Robben took Gnabry under his wing and lavished praise on him earlier this season.
"I like Serge a lot. His attitude is very good, he always wants to improve," said the Dutchman in October.
"Robben's dribbling and cutting inside is incredible. I haven't quite
got mine to his level yet," Gnabry told the Bundesliga website.
Yet Gnabry remains dangerous in front of goal, having scored in three of his last five games for Bayern.
Each goal prompts his trademark celebration, a "cooking" gesture borrowed from US basketball star James Harden.
"The celebration comes from the NBA. When James Harden scores a lot of points, he's cooking," Gnabry explained in February.
But it is not just on the pitch that Gnabry's cooking habits have
sparked attention. Last month, the Bayern winger caused a stir when he
announced that he had switched to a vegan diet.
"I just wanted to try it out, I don't know whether I will do it
forever. But at the moment I feel good and it's fun," Gnabry told Bild.
Asked about Gnabry's new diet, Bayern coach Kovac said that the
players were free to choose what they ate, so long as it did not
adversely affect performance.
For Gnabry, at least, it appears not to have done. Virgil van Dijk can attest to that.