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“It can’t be him, it must be his brother” — Tony Pulis recalls his shock seeing Serge Gnabry score for Bayern Munich

This will go down as one of the greatest talent misjudgments of all time.

Liverpool v Stoke City - FA Cup Sixth Round Photo by Alex Livesey/Getty Images

Everyone knows the story by now. After a failed loan to West Brom in 2015, Serge Gnabry moved from Arsenal FC to Werder Bremen via the surreptitious influence of Bayern Munich (which Arsene Wenger has since confirmed). Once he started getting goals in the Bundesliga, Bayern quickly snapped him up for a paltry fee and sent him on loan to Hoffenheim under Julian Nagelsmann for further development. The rest of the tale will be familiar to fans of the Rekordmeister, as Gnabry later returned to win all honors with the biggest club in Germany, including the Champions League title in 2020.

Amidst all this, one man has never been able to escape his role in the mythos surrounding Serge Gnabry. Tony Pulis, the coach who was in charge at West Bromwich Albion during Gnabry’s ill-fated loan deal, made a statement about the German youngster that he probably regrets now. In his words, Serge Gnabry was “not at the level required to play for West Brom.”

Given what he’s done in his career since, that quote has come back to haunt Pulis. Speaking to the Baggies Broadcast, the former West Brom coach offered a new insight into his experience working with the player who inherited the #7 shirt at Bayern Munich.

In case Twitter breaks (thanks Musk) here’s the quote:

Tony Pulis (former West Brom manager) on Serge Gnabry: “We brought him in and he got brought off in a reserve game after 30 or 35 minutes at the Albion.

I’ll give you a funny story, Arsenal sold him to Werder Bremen for about £5m and then he goes onto Bayern Munich and Kenty rang me up and said ‘Have you seen Gnabry at Bayern Munich? He’s scored’ and he said, ‘It can’t be him, it must be his brother.’

Some people say to me the best thing that could happen was him going to your place and not getting in the team because that winded him up. You don’t not pick your best players, if we had Gnabry playing like he was at Bayern Munich, you’d have him in the team week-in-week-out.”

This may seem like a cop-out, but to be fair to Pulis, Gnabry may actually agree with him. In an interview with the Daily Mail (via shortly after Bayern’s all-conquering 2020 treble run, Gnabry credited his time at WBA for his current success.

“At the end of day, if I didn’t go to West Brom, if it didn’t go how it did, I wouldn’t be here at Bayern Munich now, I wouldn’t be a Champions League winner, I wouldn’t have had five trophies in one season and be playing, I think, in the best team in the world,” Gnabry told The Mail on Sunday.

“It didn’t go well at West Brom but I just kept working and that’s one of things I adopted: always keep working.”

Gnabry describes that period of his career as making him “tougher” as a player, and what has been English football’s loss has certainly been Germany’s gain.

Pulis may never live down the ignominious moniker of being the coach who said that Gnabry wasn’t good enough for West Brom, but ... actually, there’s no silver lining here. It just makes you wonder how many Serge Gnabries there are out there who were overlooked by their coaches, who didn’t have their talent spotted and a dream move to Bremen/Hoffenheim to rebuild their careers.

Professional coaches paid millions of euros a year can get these decisions wrong, so perhaps we should always take their judgements and statements with a grain of salt. As for Gnabry, good on him for proving Pulis wrong.

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