Peter Gulacsi believes he has established himself as one of the best goalkeepers in the Bundesliga and across Europe. - © DFL
Peter Gulacsi believes he has established himself as one of the best goalkeepers in the Bundesliga and across Europe. - © DFL
bundesliga

RB Leipzig's Peter Gulacsi: "I believe I'm one of the best goalkeepers in Europe"

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Peter Gulacsi leads the Bundesliga for clean sheets in 2020/21 with RB Leipzig's turning from one of the best attacks in Europe to one of the best defences under Julian Nagelsmann.

It's been a long journey to the top for Gulacsi and in an exclusive interview with bundesliga.com, Leipzig's No.1 discusses his journey so far from Liverpool to Salzburg and beyond, how goalkeeping has changed over the years and why he believes he is one of the best in Europe...

Peter Gulacsi on Leipzig's season so far...

Peter Gulacsi: "Yeah, I mean, we knew before the season that it's going to be a tough season for all the teams, and we talked about it a lot that defensive stability could be key in this season because we have many games, we play twice a week almost every week. To play stable, to concede only a few goals, it could give a really strong platform to our performances. We have this kind of mentality as a team. We have, of course, great players, not just in the defence but also the midfielders who work a lot against the ball. But, in general, the whole mentality of the team is to try to not concede a goal, and of course, it's not a secret that if you do that we already have one point. And I think this is one of the keys to our successful season so far."

On Leipzig's defensive record...

Gulacsi: "Yeah, of course, to have 11 clean sheets doesn't just show that you have a good goalkeeper, it means that you have a good team in front of you, and a good team who is defending well. For me, it's a really important aspect of our game. Of course, we have the goal to have the best defence at the end of the season, not just clean sheets, but the fewest goals conceded as well and it's a kind of mentality. I'm trying to bring it to the team, spread it around the team. We have the right people in the team who take this kind of mentality. I think it's also a big part of a goalkeeper's job to have this kind of energy within the team that your goal is always to have the best defence, to concede the fewest goals, and of course, it's not always possible, but this has to be the goal for such a good team. It makes me proud, but we still have 12 games left, so we have a lot to do until the end."

On his development...

Gulacsi: "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. On the other side, since Julian Nagelsmann came to the club, we changed our style of play so I had to adapt my game as well, and I think I probably made the most improvement in that area. The good thing is, you know, I'm 30 years old now, but I'm still not at the end of my development because I have the right environment. I have the right people around me, and they keep pushing me, and my goal is always to get better. So far, I would say this season is probably the best one I've played so far, and my goal is to keep playing like this until the end of the season."

On how he compares to other keepers...

Gulacsi: "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. To say exactly in which position, I think that's very difficult to say. Everybody has a different opinion about goalkeepers - there are a lot of good goalkeepers at top teams who are performing really consistently at a high level. I'm trying to do my best, and I always said if I can climb up on that ranking, then it makes me really proud."

Watch: Oliver Kahn compares Gulasci and Neuer

On what it's like to play in goal in the Bundesliga...

Gulacsi: "Of course, again, it's difficult to compare leagues, but I would say Bundesliga in terms of challenges for a goalkeeper is probably one of the most complex. It's quite physical, it's a quick league, but still with a lot of quality, so as a goalkeeper you have to be complex: you have to be good with your feet, you have to be good on the line, but you also have to be good commanding your area. So it's not really one part of your game where you have to be very strong - in every single section, you have to be on the top. I think that's why probably the Bundesliga keeps producing good goalkeepers, who maybe later in their career can make a step to another league and perform there as well. We see many examples with [Marc-Andre] Ter Stegen and Bernd Leno as well, so we have many goalkeepers who went from Germany to another league, and performed on a very high level."

On how football has changed for goalkeepers...

Gulacsi: "If we look at the last 10 years, probably the biggest change is how football got even quicker, when people thought 'Okay, it's maybe already on the limit!' but still, football is getting quicker every time, and the differences between teams are getting smaller and smaller. As a goalkeeper, I think in the last couple of years, one of the most important aspects is decision-making, positioning, because you can really avoid dangerous situations with your positional game, with your decisions and as I mentioned, the game is really quick so you always have to be in the right position to make a save. I think this is where goalkeeping took a big step in the last couple of years, and maybe there's still a little bit of room for improvement there. Of course, on the technical side, you can always get better, you can always get more accurate with small things, but at the end of the day, you know, the best goalkeepers for me are the ones whose decision-making and positioning are very consistent and are on a good level."

Watch: Gulacsi's Top 5 saves for Leipzig

On goalkeepers he has learned from...

Gulacsi: "Of course, as a younger goalkeeper growing up I watched a lot of goalkeepers, and probably in that case, like I just mentioned, positioning, playing out from the back with the feet, and being that modern goalkeeper, probably the first one for me was Edwin van der Sar from Manchester United. Even in the later part of his career, he was really successful, and that is down really to the basics that he did. Sometimes he made saves look easy because he had the right positioning, the right timing for things and for me, in that path, the next one was Petr Cech at Chelsea who played on a very high level for years. Of course, I had the opportunity to be at Liverpool with Pepe Reina, who also had a big influence on me. Growing up as a younger goalkeeper, I would say those names. And of course, now I'm also playing on a very high level, there are other goalkeepers. I don't think it's a bad thing to watch other goalkeepers and try to pick things up from them, and there are many good ones. There's a lot to learn still."

On playing for Liverpool at the start of his career...

Gulacsi: "The challenge itself, at such a young age, to go to a big club - it was huge. At 17 years old, I had to grow up straight away and take this challenge, because it's a very competitive environment. In the first year, I was with the reserves and played in the reserves league, we won the league which was a very successful year, and from my second year on, so from the age of 18, I was involved in the first team. I was the number 3 goalkeeper, I trained with the first team. It was a big challenge, a fantastic experience to train with world-class players but at the same time, it was a big responsibility because it's a very competitive environment and you have to really grow up to this challenge. It helped me a lot as a goalkeeper and as a person to go in that development. I had some spells at other clubs on loan in the third league and in the second league but as I said, these six years I spent in England was really important for my later career."

On his path to Leipzig...

Gulacsi: "Already in the last year in Liverpool, I felt that I will have to take a step out of England to go to maybe a so-called smaller club, but a club with ambition, where I have the chance to be the number one. I was on the bench over 50 times for Liverpool, but I didn't make my senior debut, so I was always stuck in the same position and when the opportunity came that I could change to Salzburg, it was a really tempting one because it's a club playing in a smaller league, but a very-well managed club, a fantastic club, and also an opportunity to play international, which was a very important factor for me. Now, we can say it was the perfect decision because in two years I played exactly 100 games, which at my age was really vital for me after six years in Liverpool where I didn't have regular football and it was important to get out from there and go to a club where I can play. And with 100 games behind me, I was ready for the next step, to come to Germany."

Peter Gulacsi never made a senior appearance for Liverpool, but does not regret his move to England as a teenage prodigy. - imago images

On Leipzig in the Bundesliga...

Gulacsi: "If I'm truly honest, we exceeded my expectations, as well. Of course, we had people at the club who are very ambitious, but when I came here our main goal was to win promotion in the first year and then stabilise ourselves in the Bundesliga. 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. Maybe we jumped a couple of years in our development because the long-term goal for this club was, of course, to try to get and play to an international level and do it every season, and we basically did that from the first year on in the Bundesliga. 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."

On the potential of winning the title...

Gulacsi: "Of course, it's an opportunity. If we were talking about this topic two weeks ago, I probably would have said 'Okay, the league is really far away from us', that just shows how football can change in a couple of days. We have only one job to do - that's to focus on our games, and try to win them because without that there is nothing to talk about. There are still 12 games to play so there is a lot to happen. If we also look at the teams behind us, they're still pushing from behind so there's a complex situation. I mean we enjoy the situation right now because we're in good form in the league, but we have tough fixtures coming up now with Gladbach and Frankfurt, and Freiburg in between, so they're three key games. If we can keep playing the same way, as we showed the last couple of weeks in the Bundesliga and keep the stability, then I think our situation is a strong one. We'll try to play a successful season, we're still there in the cup, in the Champions League it's a big job against Liverpool from 2-0 behind, but still, not impossible. We just keep believing, and as I said, try to play a successful season."

RB Leipzig are in safe hands with Peter Gulacsi between the sticks. - DFL

On Leipzig's long-term goals...

Gulacsi: "If we look at the last couple of seasons, we always improved step by step. If we look at our season two years ago, we played a really strong season but still, we could achieve more than that last season with a really good Champions League campaign. This season, again, if we look in terms of points and what we collected, we're still a little bit better than last season. So if Leipzig can keep that improvement, then of course, it's a possibility to be one of the big challengers of Bayern."

On the European Championships this summer with Hungary...

Gulacsi: "If you look at our group, there's no surprise that we aren't the favourites to come through. We'll play against France, Portugal and Germany. Still, it's a big job for us, it's a great opportunity. Our main goal was to qualify for the EUROs because, as it stands at the moment, Budapest is still host for two games that we're going to play, and our third game in Germany. We had a small chat about it with Lukas [Klostermann] or Halsti [Marcel Halstenberg], but it's still far away. There are so many things until then that EUROs is another topic. Our focus is more on the Bundesliga, Champions League and cup right now."

On playing with Willi Orban for Hungary...

Gulacsi: "In general, already, Willi [Orban] and me playing together, it's a big advantage to the national team as well, especially a goalkeeper and centre-back connection is very important. If you have that throughout every week, and you know the player who is playing in front of you, that's a big help for you. So I think we benefited a lot from that relationship, and now we have one player even more further up the pitch, so of course, that's a great thing - the more automatism we have together, the easier it is to implement that in such a short time with the national team. Still, of course, it's a team game so we need the whole team, and I hope we'll play a successful EURO, even though it's going to be difficult. But we'll give our best and see what happens."