Bayern Munich's midfielder Serge Gnabry attends the German first division Bundesliga football match BVB Borussia Dortmund v FC Bayern Munich in Dortmund, western Germany, on Nov 10, 2018. (CHRISTOF STACHE / AFP)
BERLIN - Coolness has its limits. At least when it comes to Serge Gnabry. The 23-year-old Bayern Munich winger might like stylish clothing and love hip-hop but when it comes to football the German international is following a strict career plan.
In a recent interview, the German international told Xinhua that Bayern's Champions League opponents Liverpool might be the favorites for their round-of-16 tie, "but we are a confident side". He called the clash against the Premier League leaders "evenly balanced" and said Bayern are strong enough to survive.
The son of an Ivorian father and a German mother said he is living his dream playing for one of football's biggest clubs. Behind his success is not only determination but a thoughtfully designed plan he has followed with the support of his father.
Gnabry says he is benefitting from various influences, as his father stands for African vigor and his mother for southern German characteristics like precision and thrift. "To have both sides within me enriches my life," the forward said.
The forward is said to stand both for Bayern's future and that of the German national team. The Stuttgart-born youngster played for Arsenal (2011-2016) and West Bromwich Albion (on loan), Werder Bremen and TSG Hoffenheim before joining Bayern in 2018.
"I've heard a lot of positive things about Jurgen Klopp. Things have developed greatly since he took over at the club. They play football full of passion, one can't deny that. He is doing a great job."
"Liverpool might favorites but it doesn't mean the result is a foregone conclusion. Things can go either way. We approach this tie with the aim of winning it. Both teams are evenly matched."
Liverpool's German manager Jurgen Klopp (center) celebrates with Liverpool's Scottish defender Andrew Robertson (right) on the pitch after the English Premier League football match between Liverpool and Bournemouth at Anfield in Liverpool, north west England on Feb 9, 2019. (PAUL ELLIS / AFP)
Surprisingly, Gnabry didn't earmark Liverpool's brilliant forwards like Mo Salah, Roberto Firmino or Sadio Mane when talking about his favorite performer, instead saying he admires the Dutchman Georginio Wijnaldum "as you find him everywhere on the pitch." The 28-year-old might not be one of the top scorers but "he works hard closing down spaces between the lines".
Gnabry called Wijnaldum's effect on Liverpool's game "significant" and said "he is like the glue combining the back row with the midfield line or the forwards," also calling Salah, Firmino and Mane idols that "every talented youngster can learn from."
On his career plan
After joining Arsenal at the age of 15, Gnabry moved to the Bundesliga's Werder Bremen at 21 "because I knew it would much easier to play regularly for Bremen than for Arsenal."
When signing a contract with Bayern in 2017, he insisted upon being loaned out to TSG Hoffenheim to get match practice and join the squad full of superstars later.
Moving to England "broadened my horizons. I had to adapt to a new culture, a new language and a new club" he commented, adding that while his time at England made him grow up, it hadn't always been easy.
On his dreams and goals
Gnabry doesn't need to think long to express his goals as a footballer over the next five years. "I want to win the Champions League, the German Bundesliga and Cup, and the World Cup. And to have started a family."
On challenging icons like Robben and Ribery
Gnabry called it a great pleasure and honor to benefit "from their experience." In every training session, it is apparent why "they have shaped the last decade at the highest level." The Bayern winger mentioned that "no youngster joins Bayern with the intention of playing second fiddle. Everybody wants to play, and so do I."
On his advice for talented youngsters
"A passion for football is essential. It's the basis for every job, no matter what you do." Youngsters in football should be encouraged to "become competitive" as this is a "vital part of football, allowing you to gain experience and learn to make your own decisions and take responsibility."
HONG KONG NEWS