Peter Gulacsi has established himself as one of the very best goalkeepers in the Bundesliga for RB Leipzig. - © DFL
Peter Gulacsi has established himself as one of the very best goalkeepers in the Bundesliga for RB Leipzig. - © DFL
bundesliga

RB Leipzig's Peter Gulacsi: "2019 was a special year for me"

RB Leipzig's attacking prowess may have earned headlines this season with Julian Nagelsmann's table-toppers the league's highest-scoring team, but goalkeeper Peter Gulacsi has more than played his part at the other end of the pitch to ensure his side have a say in what is shaping up to be a thrilling title race.

In an exclusive interview with bundesliga.com, Gulacsi discusses Leipzig's form so far, how he has improved personally and underscores Nagelsmann's impact since arriving last summer.

bundesliga.com: What do you see as your greatest strength?

Peter Gulacsi: "I think in general 2019 was a special year for me. I had the opportunity to prove my worth. As a goalkeeper this was a very special year; we often kept clean sheets and I was able to play my role in the team. I think I've improved in all areas. As a result of our playing style. I may be playing higher up the pitch this season and have to act as a sweeper-keeper. From a footballing perspective, I have a completely different role this season in comparison with last season. I think I could still make a few steps forward and I'm very motivated to do so. I love the work and I can see a lot of opportunities for improvement ahead."

Watch: What makes Gulacsi so special?

bundesliga.com: And in which areas do you still need to improve? What are you working on the most?

Gulacsi: "I think as a goalkeeper there are, of course, many different areas to focus on and I can't say that I'm perfect in this one or this one. I'm very strong on the line, I have good reactions and in the penalty area I've improved a lot over the years but I think there's still room for more bravery in my game. However, as I said before, I have many different tasks now, such as playing with my feet more as we're starting the build-up of play from the back, and as the goalkeeper, I'm very much involved with that. I have to readjust to this and show my footballing strengths too."

bundesliga.com: Where does your strength come from?

Gulacsi: "I'm at the right club and with the right people. I have my own goals and want to improve as a goalkeeper. These two things just fit together quite well. We have a great goalkeeping coach with Frederik Gößling. We're constantly working on all areas of goalkeeping to improve my game. To have made this development is largely thanks to the goalkeeping coach."

bundesliga.com: What are your personal goals for the future?

Gulacsi: "Last season we had the best defence; the most clean sheets and the fewest goals conceded. As a goalkeeper, you keep an eye on these statistics. This year our goal is similar but you have to consider that we're playing a slightly different style of football; more open and attacking football. Our goal was to try and maintain our defensive record from last year despite the change in playing style because we don't play as compact anymore and take far more risks at the back to play it forward. In the first half of the season we almost had the same statistics as last year in terms of goals conceded, and not quite as many clean sheets. Considering how many goals we've scored up front, it seems to have balanced out well."

Gulacsi has made 42 saves in the Bundesliga this season, and kept four clean sheets in 16 league outings - 2019 DFL

bundesliga.com: With whom do you spend most time with off the pitch? And what do you like to do outside of football?

Gulacsi: "To be honest, in this first half of the season we didn't have much free time because we had a game every third or fourth day. When you only have a little free time you try to spend it with your family. However, I'm very good friends with Emil Forsberg, Kevin Kampl and Yussuf Poulsen. We're the guys that are in a similar situation as we all became fathers recently and are in a similar place in our lives. We speak regularly, maybe less about the babies as we let our wives do that. We've been together at the club for years but I think this applies to the whole squad as we're a very close group of players with a great team spirit."

bundesliga.com: How has becoming a father changed you on the pitch?

Gulacsi: "It can definitely be a reason [for my development], as you're more motivated and get power from the situation. It's always nice to come home and see my son. This does give me more energy, but I don't think that so much changed. I've tried to maintain my form even though I have more to do off the pitch now. However, my wife and I share the duties well and have found a good balance so that I can continue to focus on football."

bundesliga.com: How did you get into football? When was it clear to you that could break into professional football?

Gulacsi: "I was a very active child and at the age of five my parents decided that I need to do something because it was too much to take at home. At the time we had just moved to a new house that was right next to a football pitch so the solution was quite simple; that I would join this small club and play football. I enjoyed it right away as my whole family loves football, although nobody had ever played at a professional level. Right from the beginning, I was saying that I wanted to become a footballer. I think many children say that and my parents said 'sure, you can do that but it's important to do the right things in school too...' I did that for a while and at 15 I had the opportunity to join an academy in Hungary and by 17 I made the move to Liverpool. At that time, it was clear to me that football was no longer a hobby but a serious career choice."

Teammates on the field, friends off it: Gulacsi (l.) and Kevin Kampl (2nd l.) have been at Leipzig together for over two and a half years. - via www.imago-images.de/imago images / opokupix

bundesliga.com: Who is your greatest idol?

Gulacsi: "I had multiple. Firstly, in terms of the modern goalkeeper, it was Edwin van der Sar. He was the first to play more with his feet and played forward with the team. He brought this new style of play into the game so he's a clear idol of mine. After that, it's Petr Cech, who has a similar style of play to myself. For me, the best goalkeepers are always doing the right thing at the right time in terms of decisiveness, positioning and balance. They don't do many things wrong, especially these two who were the first of the modern goalkeepers."

bundesliga.com: How difficult is it for someone from Hungary to make it in football? And were there doubts?

Gulacsi: "When I got the opportunity I didn't think twice about it back then. Liverpool had just played in the UEFA Champions League final in 2007 against AC Milan and two days later I was asked to come to Liverpool. That's a huge opportunity but also a difficult experience, to move to a new country at the age of 17, without family or friends, and take on such a responsibility. It helped me a lot. Without that experience, I wouldn't be sitting here and so I'm very glad that I had that opportunity."

bundesliga.com: What did you want to become as a child? What is your biggest dream?

Gulacsi: "Honestly, I was always good at school, always paid attention in school so that I could spend the rest of my time playing football without studying at home. At home, it was always clear that school came before football. My older sister is a nurse, my younger sister is an architect so there's not much sport in my family, but I still said that I wanted to be a footballer. This goal was very clear to me and I had no other plans, so football worked out well."

Watch: Gulacsi's top 5 saves

bundesliga.com: What does it mean to you to be the league leaders halfway into the season?

Gulacsi: "That was, of course, a nice feeling for the winter break. It's probably nothing more than that because we've only played half the season and have a very difficult second half ahead. I think it's far more important to see how we've developed, what we've achieved so far this season. We started well but then had a phase in which we didn't play at our best. After that, we found the key and have been very successful throughout the last two months. We have a lot of potential in the team, with one of the best head coaches in the world. It's a very exciting time because we have a lot to learn and our head coach has said that we may not yet be ready to become champions, but we have the potential for it. To get there we have a lot to improve to become the favourite, but in recent months we've shown that we certainly have the potential."

bundesliga.com: What is it you rate highest about Julian Nagelsmann?

Gulacsi: "He has a very clear idea as to how we should play football. It's not always easy for the team to understand how to apply his ideas in practice right away. He has very complicated training sessions and there's a lot of stress in training because he pushes his players as far as he can. You can clearly see the development we have made if you look at last season and now. The record number of goals that we have scored so far speaks for itself. I think, in the last two months, we've not had a game in which we scored fewer than three goals. This has all come from the head coach and the team is trying to follow the path that he's laid down. He showed at Hoffenheim that he's a great coach and with us, he has done exactly that as well."

bundesliga.com: And how is Nagelsmann off the pitch?

Gulacsi: "Off the pitch, he's very relaxed. The age difference between him and the players is not so big, so he's very close to the team off the pitch. He's always in a good mood and tries to find the right mix between being respected by his players as head coach, and being a colleague. He's always there for you and tries to create a positive atmosphere in the team."

Gulacsi has hailed Nagelsmann's impact since arriving at Leipzig in summer 2019. - opokupix via www.imago-images.de/imago images/opokupix

bundesliga.com: What were your highlights in the first half of the season?

Gulacsi: "The qualification in the Champions League. To reach the knockout stages is, so far, our greatest success this season. The moment that we became winter champions was also a great moment. However, I'd say that the Champions League knockout stage was the best as we didn't get too far in our first attempt at the Champions League. To have qualified for the knockout stages, after five games, is a great achievement for the team."

bundesliga.com: Did you expect it to go so well before the start of the season?

Gulacsi: "I think everyone had hoped for it but you can never really know because we knew that our playing style would change a lot this year. However, it's hard to know how well you'll be able to convert the new ideas on the pitch and how successful it'll be. As I said, we had a phase in which we had one or two doubts and weren't sure if it really works. However, our coach had always said that there would be a time when it doesn't go smoothly and the results wouldn't be right. During that time we still had games in which we did everything right but didn't use our chances and understood that we have to keep trusting our playing style. We did that and now the results are coming as a consequence of that. It's a great feeling, but before this season there weren't many who thought that it could work out so quickly. It's great."

bundesliga.com: How do you think the second half of the season will go and what are your chances to get the title?

Gulacsi: "Before the season we said that we have a tough schedule throughout the year. In our next seven or eight games, we're playing against all the top teams so we have to start well. We have an important first game at home against Union Berlin. Since the first Matchday, they have improved a lot and I'm sure it'll be a much harder game than our first game was. After that it'll be one after the other as we face Borussia Mönchengladbach, Bayern Munich and Schalke. So, we'll be facing all the teams at the top and have the Champions League simultaneously. It'll be a lot to take and we'll do our best to deal with it. We have a lot of confidence from our current situation. We'll try to take this momentum from December into the new year and play some great football."

Watch: Bundesliga legend Oliver Kahn analyses Manuel Neuer and  Gulacsi

bundesliga.com: According to other Bundesliga professionals asked by kicker, Leipzig is the favourite to win the title. What do you think of that?

Gulacsi: "You could say so. As we've faced all the teams, they've probably felt that we have a chance to become Champions. I think the favourites are still other teams other than us, but it's a step forward for us to be considered as favourites by other teams. It means that other teams that face us will be preparing to face a potential league champion so it'll not get any easier for us."

bundesliga.com: Who are the biggest rivals for the title and why?

Gulacsi: "All teams at the top are our rivals. The favourite is still Bayern Munich. They have great experience in these situations. At the start of the season, we said we would try to close the gap between ourselves and Bayern. So far we've done this very well and our aim is to play an equally strong second half of the season. If we can do that then who knows what'll happen at the end."

bundesliga.com: Do you feel pressure as the favourite to win the title?

Gulacsi: "Pressure? No. Not in the current situation as we still have 17 games left. So much can still happen and so I would say it's a nice situation for us and it's a new experience for us. Over the past years we've been in second, third or fourth and to be in a new situation is interesting for us. We're trying to find a good solution to this new situation."

He may already be a shot-stopper extraordinaire, but Gulacsi believes he can still improve in many areas. - AFP/Getty Images - John MacDougall

bundesliga.com: What do you think of Hungary's chances for the European Championship play-offs (against Bulgaria, final against Island/Romania)?

Gulacsi: "We have two finals, hopefully. First, we have to win in Bulgaria to get into the final, which will take place in Hungary. That's our main goal. It won't be easy to win against Bulgaria because we're two teams that are equally strong so small details will make the difference. We played a good qualification round but were unable to qualify directly for the European Championship in the last game. However, we're desperate to be there as two of the games would be in Hungary, which would be incredible. Our group is already confirmed, that's definitely an interesting group. Our main goal is to qualify and then we'll see what happens."

bundesliga.com: What does it mean to you to play for Hungary?

Gulacsi: "Many may say that it only happens once in a lifetime that you have the chance to play such a tournament at home. However, in this case, it'll typically never happen in one's career. For the players in Hungary, there's no greater motivation than to play in the stadium in Budapest. We've already had the opportunity to play there in a friendly match and it was an incredible experience. We're desperate to experience this again by playing at home in the European Championship. The meaning of the game against Bulgaria and then the play-off final is huge. We really want to bring this happiness to the Hungarian population when they watch their team at home."

bundesliga.com: And what does it mean to you, to be very successful with your national team right now?

Gulacsi: "Of course I'm very happy because I've had a very successful club career so far. I've had the opportunity to play at the highest level in one of the best leagues in the world. Additionally, I've played in the UEFA Champions League and we reached the cup final last season, too. However, to play with the national team at home in front of my family, my friends, would be a highlight in my career."