By Oliver Trust
BERLIN, April 23 (Xinhua) -- Bayern Munich president Uli Hoeness might have mixed feelings when discussing the club's forward Serge Gnabry due to a particular reason.
"The sales of our family sausage factory went down after he changed his nutrition plan," Hoeness said with a smile.
The 67-year-old, of course, is only joking. Sausage producer and meat lover Hoeness doesn't mind the 23-year-old optimizing his life as a professional footballer. Several months ago, Gnabry abandoned the consumption of animal products and now follows a strict vegan diet.
Despite their entirely different food preferences, Hoeness is exceptionally fond of the youngster's new approach to life and is aware of the positive effect, as Gnabry has not suffered so much from injuries as he has in the past.
In advance of Bayern's German Cup semifinal against Werder Bremen this Wednesday, the 1974 World Cup winner called Gnabry "the season's biggest surprise", adding that he has far exceeded expectations by becoming one of the team's key performers.
"Don't tell anyone," Hoeness commented with a twinkle with his eye, "but we thought he might do a few games and occasionally help the team."
With nine goals and eight assists from 26 games, the new arrival is Bayern's second top scorer behind spearhead Robert Lewandowski after having spent a year on loan at Hoffenheim.
Teammate Jerome Boateng praises the former Arsenal player for his "equally strong left and right foot," calling the German international a technical wizard.
Bayern coach Niko Kovac is happy that he "always wants to score", while Hoeness is fascinated by Gnabry dribbling abilities.
It is apparent the winger with Ivorian roots has turned into a vital cog and is one of the team's cornerstones. Hoeness says everyone at the club enjoys "his positive attitude and energy."
Like a scientist, Gnabry curiously seems to investigate life from all perspectives and loves looking beyond the horizon. That means exploring borders when using new methods such as neuro-athletic training and yoga to improve his performance - as well as practising his skills as a piano player.
"I am not as gifted with my hands as I might be with my feet," he says, adding that one can compare piano playing with football. "Learning a new piece or a new combination on the piano keys gives you the same satisfying feeling and motivation boost as when things work well on the football pitch," Gnabry said.
Though he recently extended his contract with Bayern through to 2023, the Stuttgart-born forward is adamant that achieving his breakthrough in the Munich team is not meant to be his last step.
German legend Lothar Matthaus says Gnabry and his French counterpart Kingsley Coman on Bayern's right flank have managed to follow in the footsteps of club legends Arjen Robben and Franck Ribery.
"They managed to close the gap left by Robben and Ribery. That is one of the great achievements of Kovac while his squad had to deal with substantial changes," the 150-cap Matthaus said.
Next to his dream of winning as many titles as possible, Gnabry claims to be a happy young man "as football used to be my passion from my earliest days, and now it is my profession."