Since joining RB Leipzig in January 2021, Dominik Szoboszlai's time at the Red Bull Arena has been one of the toughest periods of his young career so far. Now, though, Leipzig's latest weapon in attack is beginning to show the Bundesliga what he's all about.
Sitting down with bundesliga.com, the Hungary international discusses the major injury which kept him sidelined for eight months at Leipzig, his big dream of winning the UEFA Champions League and how he and Erling Haaland became the best of friends in their time together at Red Bull Salzburg...
Dominik Szoboszlai: "When I was at FC Liefering he was the first team coach and I was promoted up into his team. I myself thought that what I was doing at Liefering was enough even at the professional level, in terms of goals and assists and so on. At 16 I thought I didn't need to do any more, I was already doing enough. He was the coach who I needed and who changed my mindset to realise that you can always do more and that you can always improve as long as you work hard enough to get opportunities and become a regular starter. At 16 I thought that he didn't like me and didn't want me to play but I learnt that he didn't actually have a problem with me, he just knew that I could do so much more. That's why I'm grateful to him, because had he not done that I would have believed I was doing enough. I wasn't though and when I had a good long conversation with him one time I decided that I trust him and that I would do what he says and be the first in and the last out of training. Then I got my chance and after that I played a lot of games and got assists and goals. Then he left, but perhaps we will cross paths again."
bundesliga.com: You recently spent half a year out with an adductor injury. How tough was that experience for you?
Szoboszlai: "I learnt a lot in that time but I also forgot a lot and I don't want to ever go through it again. That period taught me something that I can say to any young player, because the older players know it already, namely that you really have to take care of your body to achieve everything you want to. You have to put an emphasis on recovery and take care of your body. I knew that at Salzburg already, but fortunately I hadn't had any serious injuries, so I didn't fully appreciate it. It was a tough period in my career, but I stood tall and I'm back on track now. As I said, I want to put it behind me quickly."
bundesliga.com: What has your return from injury been like for you?
Szoboszlai: "The most joyous moment for me personally was in the cup when I scored. It was my first competitive game in eight months and I came on in the 79th minute and scored in the 82nd in a 4-0 win, so I could finally relax. Of course, I still had to work hard so that I could build on that in the Bundesliga. I wasn't in the line-up against Mainz due to my injury, but against Stuttgart I was given a chance and I feel that I took it well. I just enjoyed the evening, the two goals and the 4-0 win with the fans, so I was very happy."
bundesliga.com: Jesse Marsch is your head coach now, what do you think of him?
Szoboszlai: "I've known him for just over two years, from back in Salzburg. He's a very good person and a very good coach. It hasn't been the best of starts for the team, but that can happen in football. Not every team can start well every time or get all the results they dream of. I think we're all behind him because he's a really good guy with great knowledge of the game. Nobody can say otherwise."
Watch: Szoboszlai one-man show against Stuttgart!
bundesliga.com: Lothar Matthäus recently compared you to Ferenc Puskas. What does that mean to you?
Szoboszlai: "I'm grateful to him that he thinks that way because I've worked hard since I was small to achieve something like that. However, I don't want to compare myself to Puskas. He was a very, very good player and is a legend in Hungary so I have all the respect in the world for him, but he carved his own path and I want to do that too. I want to be a role model for the kids and as I said, everyone can improve and that is what I want to do."
bundesliga.com: How would you describe yourself as a footballer?
Szoboszlai: "I have said before that my biggest dream is to win the Champions League. I want to win as many trophies as possible and have a really good career because that was my goal as a youngster. I want to play in full stadiums, in front of 70,000 people for the national team and to score and create goals and make people happy. I also want my father and my family to see me winning trophies like the Champions League. That's the aim and that's why I get up and work hard every day. Hopefully, that will pay off."
bundesliga.com: What are your hopes for the future?
Szoboszlai: "Once again, to win the Champions League. I also want to stay healthy and injury-free, I don't wish injuries on anyone. With Leipzig I want to go as far as possible in the cup and the Champions League and to finish as high as possible in the Bundesliga. That's what we're working towards now."
bundesliga.com: You and Erling Haaland are friends, how did that friendship come about?
Szoboszlai: "We're still friends, we still keep in touch. When I joined Salzburg, [Munas] Dabbur helped me the most with the step up into the professional game. I knew how tough it is to settle into the team, even though they are all friendly and try to help. They already know each other, so it can be hard to integrate. When Erling joined he was the only new player that summer and everybody else knew each other. I thought to myself that I had been in the same situation, so I was very open to him and helped him with whatever he needed. We went out together, even though he doesn't do that much and we also went for food and so on. We became good friends and I helped him get to know the team while he helped me with my English, so we both helped each other."