Yussuf Poulsen has risen to the top with RB Leipzig against the odds. - © DFL
Yussuf Poulsen has risen to the top with RB Leipzig against the odds. - © 2018 DFL
bundesliga

RB Leipzig's Yussuf Poulsen: "I was never the greatest talent"

Yussuf Poulsen has outscored Germany's star striker Timo Werner at RB Leipzig this season, a feat that has surprised the great Dane himself as much as anyone. Poulsen is enjoying easily the best of his six seasons at the Red Bull Arena, having plundered 12 goals and two assists to help the Saxony side up to third in the table behind Borussia Dortmund and Bayern Munich.

Ahead of Leipzig's clash with Augsburg on Saturday, bundesliga.com sat down with the 24-year-old to get his thoughts on his recent goal splurge and what Ralf Rangnick's men can hope to achieve this season…

bundesliga.com: Yussuf Poulsen, you're Leipzig's top scorer this season with 12 goals, one more than Werner has. Last year he scored 13 and you four. What's changed?

Yussuf Poulsen: I don't do that much differently to what I did in the last few years. I just stand in the right places now! (laughs)

Watch: Poulsen has hit five braces this season, the first of them against Hoffenheim on Matchday 6

bundesliga.com: It's been some upswing, though. You scored 11 goals in the last two seasons, and now you're on 12 already…

Poulsen: Seven or eight months ago I started working with a psychologist because they give me good pointers. That's helped me a lot, helped get me through games better.

bundesliga.com: Did you always believe that you could get to this level with the right combination of hard work and application?

Poulsen: I was never the greatest talent, to be honest. I was never the one that everyone said would become a pro footballer. I think I didn't realise until I was 17 or something that maybe I could make it! When I was 15 and we had the first national team pre-selection, I wasn’t there, and there were 500 players from all of Denmark chosen from the 1994 age group. I had hoped more than believed that something would happen, it only happened very late.

bundesliga.com: What motivated you to continue with your career?

Poulsen: The challenge and when anyone said to me that I can’t do it, I wanted to show that I can. Throughout my youth, there were always many players ahead of me, pushed ahead of me, chosen for the youth national teams ahead of me. It always gave me the motivation to try harder.

Teammates like Joshua Kimmich (c.) might have come and gone, but Yussuf Poulsen (l.) and Diego Demme (r.) are in it for the long haul at Leipzig. - imago/Picture Point

bundesliga.com: How have you settled in with RB Leipzig?

Poulsen: The beginning was difficult. I came from Lyngby, where we played a bit differently, we were a possession-based team, we trained with the ball a lot and not so much running. Then I came here and trained twice straight away, then had matches on Saturday and Sunday, and I could barely run for a week afterwards. I lived in a hotel for the first three months, before agreeing to move in with Joshua Kimmich and he helped me a lot as my German wasn't so great then. It was the best solution, it was the first time both of us were far away from our parents. It was a great time, he helped me a lot with the language as well, the problem as a foreigner is that you can spend three or four hours on the training pitch, which is the only time you speak or hear German, so I said to him after two months that he should only speak German to me and I’ll ask him if I don’t understand, or answer in English if I can’t say it in German. I was one of only two non-German speaking players, so it was a challenge for me to learn as quickly as possible.

bundesliga.com: What does RB Leipzig mean to you?

Poulsen: It means a lot to me, as it’s the club which brought me here and where I still am. It’s the first club where I had real success. I became a national team player here, became a Bundesliga player and I feel lucky to have developed this much in the last five and a half years, which is why the club means so much to me. When it comes to what I want to achieve, as much as possible, we’ll see what that is in years to come, but I will do everything to be as successful with this club as we have been.

bundesliga.com: You face Augsburg on Saturday. What are you expecting from this game?

Poulsen: Augsburg are a difficult opponent. We've experienced that a few times in recent years. We drew 0-0 there earlier this season. We know that they mean business and are competitive, but this time we're playing at home. Maybe that can make a small difference and we can crack it this time!

Watch: Poulsen discusses his rise to the very top with Leipzig

bundesliga.com: And beyond Augsburg, what are your goals for this season?

Poulsen: Our big goal is to be in the top four at the end of the season and it’s looking very good at the moment. With second, third and fourth qualifying directly for the Champions League, that is our goal. We probably will not overtake Dortmund or Bayern, but if we can be in the top four and reach the Champions League, then we'll be very satisfied with our season and we all believe we can do it.

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