RB Leipzig goalkeeper Peter Gulacsi has developed into one of the best 'keepers on the planet over the course of his six years in Germany. It's safe to say he's come a long since an unsuccessful spell with Liverpool as a teenager…
bundesliga.com has done some digging and unearthed five things you may not have known about the Hungary international…
1) He played for Liverpool (and Hereford United!)
Having started his career at hometown club MTK Budapest, 17-year-old Gulacsi made the move to historical English giants Liverpool - initially on loan - in 2007. He would end up spending six years on Merseyside, but would eventually leave England for Austrian club Red Bull Salzburg without making a senior appearance for the Anfield outfit.
But Gulacsi would make his professional debut while in the U.K., albeit at the less glamorous surrounds of League One side Hereford United. Further loan spells at Tranmere Rovers and Hull City would also follow before his move to Austria in 2013 and Gulacsi says each and every stop of his early career marked a critical lesson learned.
"At Hereford it was difficult because I had much more to do there and the games were a bit like a training session because I had almost 20 shots to save in every game," he said in 2011 of his early loans. "It might sound a bit surprising but Tranmere was not a team where you would have a lot to do. At Hereford, it was more about shot-stopping and dealing with chances, chances, chances. But both were good experiences and I was able to learn from each one."
And if Hereford games were more akin to a training session, his work at Melwood going up against the likes of Steven Gerrard, Luis Suarez and Fernando Torres in their prime was quite the opposite. He told The Athletic earlier this year: "Every training felt like a game, nobody wanted to lose. As a young goalkeeper, you had to be 100 per cent all the time."
2) He's Leipzig's record Bundesliga appearance maker
By the midway point of Leipzig's 2015/16 Bundesliga 2 campaign - Gulacsi's first at the club and their last in Germany's second division - he had established himself as first choice 'keeper and ended the year by celebrating Die Roten Bullen’s maiden promotion to the top-flight.
Ever since, Gulacsi has been a near-constant between the Leipzig sticks - missing just five games in four seasons. In total, the 30-year-old has featured in 164 of RBL's 170 subsequent matches, making him their record Bundesliga appearance maker.
Watch: Gulacsi's Top 5 saves in the Bundesliga
"When I came here our main goal was to win promotion in the first year and then stabilise ourselves in the Bundesliga," he told bundesliga.com recently. "We overachieved that straight away in the first year in the Bundesliga. We came second which was a big surprise for everybody, maybe a little bit for ourselves as well and that just gave a push to the club.
"I had to also grow up to that challenge - if you see it, there have been some changes at the club but also we have some players that we still had in the second league, and that just shows that those players were able to improve with the club together, and I think that's a great story."
3) He's outperforming Manuel Neuer
Gulacsi's longevity is tribute not only to the player's quality and mentality, but also the club's trust. Across their first two seasons, Leipzig stunned the league by immediately placing themselves in second and sixth-place, respectively.
During those first Bundesliga forays, Gulacsi picked up a combined haul of 15 clean sheets from 66 top-flight matches. Those shut-outs accounted for 22 percent of his appearances, especially when industry leader Neuer had as many from just 29 games across those same two seasons as the Germany international kept opponents quiet 52 percent of the time.
It may be unfair to compare Gulacsi's early Bundesliga record to that of the more established Neuer, but when comparing the pair across the subsequent three campaigns, it begins to make sense. In short, Gulacsi has outperformed the man who is widely recognized as the best in the world.
Not only does Gulacsi have 15 clean sheets already in 2020/21 - as of Matchday 31 - but he has claimed a total of 41 in 99 games (41 percent) since the start of 2018/19. In comparison, Neuer has 34 in 90 (37 percent), as Leipzig and their stopper have begun to seriously emerge as heirs to the thrones of their Bavarian counterparts.
4) He's "one of the best 'keepers in Europe"
In establishing himself at the top of German football alongside Neuer, Gulacsi's stock has risen astronomically as a result. He is now one of the most respected stoppers on the continent and the player himself believes his status as one of Europe's finest is deserved.
He added to bundesliga.com: "For a goalkeeper, experience is a very important part of his career. Every single year I play and every single game I play, I get more and more experienced, not just in the Bundesliga, but also at the international level and that's of course an important factor.
"I always say to compare goalkeepers is really difficult, because you're very much depending on how your team plays. What's the style of play, what kind of shots you're facing, so statistically to compare goalkeepers is really difficult.
"Still, I think if we look at my performances over the last few years, I can say that I'm really among probably the best keepers in Europe, which makes me really proud."
5) He's a philanthropist
Gulacsi is not only a shining light on the pitch, but off it too and is one of the many rising voices in the game that uses their platform to speak out on society's biggest issues. Evidence of this came as recently as February this year when Gulacsi took to social media to condemn a controversial law in his homeland that effectively banned LGBTQ couples from adopting.
He wrote: "Everyone has the right to equality. The same way every child has the right to grow up in a happy family, of any gender, of any colour, of any religion. The more time a person spends abroad, the more they realise that… love, acceptance and tolerance for others is the most important."
In November of 2020, the 37-cap 'keeper also donated his national team bonus from his country's 2-1 victory over Iceland that secured their place in this summer's rescheduled UEFA Euro 2020 to a young Hungarian child named Zsombor, who suffers from spinal muscular atrophy (SMA) and in is need of one of the most expensive drugs in the world to aid his treatment.
"We became parents ourselves last year and can lead a good life," said Gulacsi. "We're fine, luckily our son is too. My wife and I just want to give something back. Little Zsombor deserves a life like any other child and we want to play an important part in helping him have that."
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