According to many, the second semifinal clash between Bayern Munich and Olympique Lyon was a mismatch. But the way Rudi Garcia’s Lyon stunned Manchester City the other night, Hansi Flick, the smart manager of Bayern, was well aware that Lyon should not be taken lightly.

Lyon showed their ability to upset the German Giants pretty early in the match – Memphis Depay shot wide when attempting to round Manuel Neuer following a rare Thiago Alcantara error and Karl Toko Ekambi struck the post as Lyon threatened dangerously early on the break.

The German winger Serge Gnabry proved influential, smashing in a stunning 18th-minute opener following a lively Lyon start before adding a much easier second.

The prolific Robert Lewandowski added his 55th goal of an incredible season in the closing stages and that was it.

Lyon found some encouragement in the second half but there is little doubt Bayern deserve their spot in the showpiece on Sunday, when they will aim to complete a second treble in seven years.

The influence of Gnabry was evident last night, and not only in the match against Lyon, but since he joined Bayern Munich, the resurgence of this German player surprised and thrilled many.

It has been a reincarnation.

Gnabry was born in Stuttgart, Baden-Württemberg, to an Ivorian father and a German mother. In his youth, Gnabry was a talented sprinter but ultimately chose football over track and field.

In Stuttgart, the talent of Gnabry was recognized.

His father, Jean-Hermann, who is of Ivorian descent, took an active interest in his son’s career, going from amateur sides like TSV Ditzingen, GSV Hemmingen, SpvGG Feuerbach and Stuttgart Kickers to VfB Stuttgart. Such was his talent and impressive potential that Peter Clark, a scout for Arsenal, decided to bring him to England – with Gnabry claiming he was told by Clark that it took ten minutes for him to make the decision.

Gnabry’s former club VfB Stuttgart agreed to a £100,000 deal with Premier League side Arsenal in 2010, but he had to wait until 2011, when he was 16, to join the English side.

Gnabry officially joined Arsenal for the 2011–12 season. He played for the under-18s for the majority of the season but was then promoted to the reserves after impressive displays.

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By the end of the season, Gnabry had played six games, scoring two goals.

The 2012–13 season started off well for Gnabry after he was called up to the Arsenal first team for a pre-season friendly against FC Köln. He played 24 minutes after coming on at half-time and was replaced by Marouane Chamakh in the 69th minute.

He then made his professional first-team debut for Arsenal on 26 September 2012 against Coventry City in the League Cup as a 72nd-minute substitute for Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain as Arsenal routed Coventry 6–1.

In October 2012, he made his Premier League debut in the 1–0 defeat against Norwich City at Carrow Road. At 17 years and 98 days, he became Arsenal’s second-youngest player in the league’s history after Jack Wilshere.

Four days later, he made his Champions League debut, coming on as a substitute in Arsenal’s 2–0 home loss to FC Schalke 04.

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In 2013, Gnabry scored the only goal in a 1–0 win over CSKA Moscow U19s in the quarter-finals of the NextGen Series.

He scored a late equalizer against Chelsea U19s to make it 3–3 in the semi-finals of the same competition before Arsenal lost 4–3 in extra time.

In the following game on 8 April, Gnabry scored a goal against Liverpool U21s in an eventual 3–2 away defeat.

In the first game of the 2013–14 season, Gnabry was included in Arsenal’s first-team squad against Aston Villa and started the game on the bench.

He then made his first start for the club on 22 September 2013 in the Premier League against Stoke City after Theo Walcott was ruled out just before kick-off. He played 73 minutes before being subbed out for Ryo Miyaichi as Arsenal won the match 3–1.

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He scored his first professional goal in the next league match against Swansea City to lead Arsenal to a 2–1 victory and leave them top of the Premier League table.

He won a penalty away at Crystal Palace in an eventual 2–0 victory for Arsenal.

Gnabry’s impressive start to the season resulted in a nomination for the 2013 Golden Boy Award, and a new five-year contract with Arsenal.

Gnabry went on to make 14 appearances in the 2013–14 season, including impressive performances in the FA Cup against Tottenham and Coventry,with Gnabry helping Arsenal go on to win the tournament that year, featuring on the bench in the next two games against Liverpool and Everton.

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But the 2014-15 season was not good – one long-term knee injury, one loan spell consisting of 12 minutes of Premier League football, and a scathing review by Pulis led many to question his talent. Speaking about Gnabry, the Pulis said, “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. He’s come from academy football and not played much league football. Does academy football really prepare players for league football? We’re talking about Premier League football here.”

At that point of time West Broom relied more on the ultra-defensive and hard-hitting style of football and for a free-flowing winger like Gnabry, such a system would not fit and thus, he failed to impress.

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Gnabry was a late inclusion in Horst Hrubesch’s German side that was to fly out for the Olympics in 2016 in Brazil.

He finished the tournament as the top scorer, netting six goals. Three of them were strikingly similar: runs from the left followed by a neat finish. Gnabry found the net against South Korea, Fiji, Mexico and Portugal, but in the end, could only claim the silver medal as hosts Brazil, inspired by Neymar, took gold at Maracana.

Nonetheless, this was the break Gnabry needed to remind everyone of his talent and just why Arsenal brought him in four years prior.

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His teammate at the Gunners, Mesut Ozil, took to Instagram to praise the youngster’s performances, while Hrubesch was critical of the club for not giving him much of a chance. He said, “He’s shown everybody what he can do.  I’m just annoyed he’s never shown enough faith by his club. You can see what an important player he can be and the kind of level he can play at. Now hopefully he can get in the team and get opportunities to play.”

Gnabry returned to Bundesliga in 2016 and joined  Werder Bremen for a reported transfer fee of £5 million.

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Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger had wanted to extend Gnabry’s contract at Arsenal before his move, but a lack of first-team opportunities meant that the winger sought a move elsewhere.

Ozil and Per Mertesacker, both were positive that this was the right club for him to flourish.

There were also strong suggestions that Bayern Munich were keen on acquiring his signature, thus getting involved in the deal themselves. Some outlets reported that the Bavarians had paid the fee themselves, while others said there was a clause in his contract that allowed him to move to the Allianz Arena.

In Bremen, Gnabry was given the chance to flourish and add to his improving reputation. He joined the club at a time where they were looking to return to the European scene after a few seasons of inconsistency and added some solid talent to get there. The likes of Max Kruse, Florian Kainz, and Izet Hajrović propelled the Werder team to the top half of the Bundesliga, and Gnabry was fortunate to get so much game time.

Kainz was the first-choice man on the left, but injury concerns gave Gnabry a chance!

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He made a bright start, and by the midway point in the season already bagged ten goals in all competitions.

Along the way, he also received his first call-up for the national team – reportedly advocated for by Ozil and Mertesacker – and his debut couldn’t have been better.

A hat-trick in an 8-0 thrashing of San Marino was vindication for the player, who felt he now had the platform to show his best form.

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Injury problems struck Gnabry at Werder, too, however. After the winter break, the winger would have trouble with his knee and missed much of the final third of the campaign. He had done enough to win people over, though, and ended the campaign with a solid total of 11 goals in 27 appearances across all competitions. The changing of managers from Viktor Skryunyk to Alexander Nouri was also important, as the latter’s attacking style encouraged players with as much flair as Gnabry.

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Speaking about his transfer, Gnabry knew it was right for him to leave Arsenal and return home: “The move was more from my side. The most important point was that I would get playing time here, instead of staying another year in the shadows or starting from behind, because there are so many people in front of you at Arsenal. I just said, ‘I need to be somewhere I can play regularly now, and maybe in one or two years things will be different again – once I get my confidence back, once I am in physical shape.’

Gnabry’s form was so impressive that he moved to the crème de la crème in German football, Bayern Munich, sparking further rumours that they were initially involved in the deal to take him to Bremen in the first place. However, his journey to Säbener Straße had one final stopover at Hoffenheim.

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A loan move to Sinsheim was a match made in heaven. Julian Nagelsmann was the manager who was making use of modern coaching methods and technology to overachieve with his team. What struck most from this deal was that Nagelsmann, eight years Gnabry’s senior, was often regarded as a ‘Menschenfänger’ – a coach with extraordinary human qualities who can inspire players to reach the next level.

This was a club that had European football and was undergoing a transition.

Over the course of the season, their impressive form attracted many clubs and they had their best talent taken from them. Niklas Süle, Sebastian Rudy and Sandro Wagner were off to Bayern Munich, while Jeremy Toljan went to Borussia Dortmund.

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Still, the coach’s talents stood out, and that allowed his players’ talents to shine.

The season started with a play-off defeat in the Champions League against eventual finalists Liverpool, but their season wasn’t to be deterred.

In an enticing 3-1-4-2 set-up, Gnabry was part of a midfield that was crucial at both ends of the pitch. Whilst also helping out in defence, their main role was to push wide and exploit opposition defences with their full-backs or forwards. With a player as pacey as Gnabry, it was a perfect fit and the additional space created for him by his teammates’ shrewd movement gave him room to weave his magic.

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In a game against title-chasing RB Leipzig, he netted twice, including a stunning strike from 40 yards out. Then, in a 6-0 thrashing of Köln, he scored another brace, which included two wonderful solo goals. Perhaps real beauty is in simplicity, and in a match against Augsburg, Nagelsmann and Gnabry showed exactly what they were all about.

The manager and his team were known for their swift counter-attacks, and there was no better player than Gnabry to carry out the orders. In the match against the Bavarians, he received the ball from a clearance in his own half and, with a sweet touch and turn, got the best of two players and left a team behind him trailing. Surging forward, he played a quick give-and-go with Andrej Kramarić before slotting home with ease.

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Both player and manager were great for each other, and Gnabry is full of praise for the boss: “Julian Nagelsmann fascinated me. Before that, the season before I had played against Hoffenheim and in the second half of the season …well, we took real hiding, but their style of play appealed to me, it was so attacking.”

Gnabry could cover several positions – while the midfield was his primary role, he didn’t mind covering at wing-back, forward or an out-and-out winger, and that made him an invaluable asset in this impressive team.

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Hoffenheim finished third – their best placing in the Bundesliga – qualifying for the Champions League group stage proper for the first time in their history and scoring 66 goals that season, second only to champions Bayern Munich.

Gnabry was involved in 18 goals across all competitions – ten goals and eight assists – and he went to Munich in the best form of his career.

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The talent of Gnabry was maturing and thus Bayern Munich announced the signing of the winger on a three-year deal for €8 million after activating a clause in his contract with Werder Bremen in 2017.

It was a time Bayern Munich were undergoing a transition period under Niko Kovac. The golden days of legends like Arjen Robben Franck Ribery were coming to an end and Bayern were looking for their replacement.

Serge Gnabry had started ahead of Robben under Niko Kovac in 2018-19, yet Karl-Heinz Rummenigge was giving interviews claiming he believed Manchester City’s Leroy Sane  “would be the successor of Arjen Robben and Franck Ribery.”

Gnabry knew he had to prove a point.

On September 1, 2018, Gnabry made his Bundesliga debut for Bayern Munich in a 3–0 win at Stuttgart when he came on as a substitute in the 77th minute.

Two months later, Gnabry scored his first Bundesliga goal for Bayern Munich in a 1–1 draw against Freiburg. Then he scored two goals in a 2–1 win against his former club Werder Bremen. In 2019, Gnabry scored Bayern Munich’s 4000th Bundesliga goal during a 5–1 win over Gladbach, helping the club become the first team to achieve the milestone.

Gnabry finished the Bundesliga season as Bayern’s second top scorer with 10 goals in 30 matches. Gnabry won his first Bundesliga title as Bayern finished two points above Dortmund with 78 points.

In the ongoing 2019-20 season, the talent of Gnabry seems to have completed a full circle.

He has been a goal-scoring machine alongside the big guns: Thomas Muller and Lewandowski.

Gnabry scored four goals in the 2019–20 UEFA Champions League 7–2 away win against Tottenham Hotspur.

The performance against Tottenham hinted that the talent is turning into deeds. Following the win, he returned to his hotel to meet Clark, the man who took him to Arsenal.

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He scored a brace against Chelsea in the first leg of Champions League round of 16 in a 3–0 away win. This made him the first player to score six away goals in London in a single edition of the Champions League.

In the thrashing mission of Barcelona he scored once and after the double-strike against Lyon – Ganbry scored nine times in the Champions League this season, which is simply brilliant.

Kovac exploited his talents better and under Flick, Gnabry seems to be evolving every minute.

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Deployed on either wing, his quick cuts inside were similar to Robben.

His former manager at Werder Bremen, Nouri, recognized the changes over time and could only heap praise, “He is lightning quick, a clinical finisher, but he puts a lot of work now in his defence – that was something he was missing before. Now he’s taking these deep runs back to his own box defending. He’s capable of doing this work while on the other hand making deep runs for the offence. Before he wasn’t able to do it because of a lack of strength physically. After a long period with no injuries, he could build up that strength – now he is a complete player.”

After Robben and Ribery’s departures, Gnabry fit their shoes well.

Sane has arrived in Munich, but Ganbry has reached a level, where he can be tagged as the worthy torch-bearer of Robben.

Gnabry is just one match away from achieving glory.

But before that, Bayern and Gnabry have to get past the magical trio of Neymar, Kylian Mbappe, and Angel Di Maria.