Adam Szalai, Peter Gulacsi, Willi Orban, Gabor Kiraly and Pal Dardai (l-r.) have over 1,100 Bundesliga appearances and 330 caps for Hungary combined. - © /
Adam Szalai, Peter Gulacsi, Willi Orban, Gabor Kiraly and Pal Dardai (l-r.) have over 1,100 Bundesliga appearances and 330 caps for Hungary combined. - © /

Adam Szalai, Peter Gulacsi, Willi Orban, Gabor Kiraly, Pal Dardai: The Bundesliga’s best Hungarian players


With Germany’s UEFA Nations League encounter against Hungary fast approaching, takes a look at five of the best Hungarians to have played in Germany's top division …

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Pal Dardai
Appearances: 297 (17 goals)
Club: Hertha Berlin
Honours: Bundesliga 2 (2010/11), DFB Ligapokal (2001, 2002), Intertoto Cup (2006)

Dominik Szoboszlai may be flying the flag as one of Hungary's most exciting young talents around, the 21-year-old lighting up Bundesliga pitches to the delight of RB Leipzig fans since January 2021. Yet long before the attacking midfielder made his way to the German top flight, another Hungarian would show his compatriots the way after his move to Hertha back in 1997. Indeed, Pal Dardai would go on to become the Old Lady's highest appearance holder during 15 seasons with the capital club that preceded a couple of coaching stints with the men in blue and white.

A defensive midfielder of some repute, Dardai made the first of his 297 appearances for Hertha in the second division after a winter transfer move. Die Alte Dame won promotion to the top tier that same season with the Pecs native later making 14 Bundesliga appearances in his team's 1997/98 campaign. The following season, Dardai would go on to play a bigger role as Hertha finished in an incredible third position in the Bundesliga standings. It was an achievement that brought a 1999 Hungarian Player of the Year award for the one time Budapesti VSC man.

Pal Dardai has seen it all as both a player and a coach with Hertha Berlin. - Matthias Kern/Getty Images

Establishing himself in the heart of the Hertha team over the following years, Dardai also became a regular senior international for Hungary - eventually winning 61 caps and captaining his country on several occasions - while he surpassed Michael Sziedat as Hertha's highest Bundesliga appearance holder when landing at 281 top-flight games in 2010. The midfielder hung up his boots at 35 having featured in 297 league encounters in Germany but his involvement with Hertha would remain strong, with Dardai moving into the coaching world.

Beginning life as a tactician with the Berlin club's youth teams, the 46-year-old subsequently answered his country's call to take up the reins of the senior national team on an interim basis. He would also later accept another interim stint, this time as Hertha's senior coach in 2015, a role he would then make permanent until the end of the 2018/19 campaign. Dardai once again answered the Hertha coaching call with a 10-month spell at the helm beginning in January 2021.

Dardai (l.) also enjoyed a stint as Hungary coach after winning 61 caps for his country. - Stuart Franklin/Getty Images

Adam Szalai
Appearances: 276 (54 goals)
Clubs: VfB Stuttgart, Mainz, Schalke, Hoffenheim, Hannover
Honours: Hungarian Player of The Year: 2012

The powerful 6ft 4in forward Szalai became a Bundesliga regular from the moment he made his loan switch to Mainz from Real Madrid's youth team permanent in July 2010. The Budapest-born striker scored his first ever Bundesliga goal for the 05ers against giants Borussia Dortmund while he netted his second against Bayern Munich. In 2012/13 - his third full season at Mainz - Szalai became the highest scoring Hungarian in a single Bundesliga campaign when he scored his 12th top-flight goal against Augsburg.

Szalai switched to Schalke in 2013/14 and was quickly asked to step up following an injury to Klaas-Jan Huntelaar. Despite a solid start in front of goal, the former Budapest Honved and Újpest FC marksman lost his touch and would end up with just seven goals in 28 Bundesliga appearances for the Royal Blues.

Striker Adam Szalai enjoyed two separate spells at Mainz. - David Inderlied/Guido Kirchner via images/Kirchner-Media

A move to Hoffenheim followed, before a loan spell to Hannover was agreed. Szalai was back with the Sinsheimers for the 2016/17 campaign and it was there that he racked up 100 Bundesliga appearances, scoring 23 goals in total with a career highlight coming when Julian Nagelsmann's side ended 2017/18 in a club-high third position in the Bundesliga.

Capped by Hungary on 84 occasions, Szalai has scored 25 goals for his country and, after a spell in the international wilderness, made his comeback to the set-up during that aforementioned Dardai coaching interim period. The current Basel forward was part of Hungary's challenges at Euro 2016 and 2020, captaining his nation in the latter tournament. He returned to Mainz in 2019 for a further two seasons with Die Nullfünfer.

Szalai (c.) featured in two European championships for Hungary. - ATTILA KISBENEDEK/POOL/AFP via Getty Images

Gabor Kiraly
Appearances: 198 (72 clean sheets)
Clubs: Hertha Berlin, Bayer Leverkusen, 1860 Munich
Honours: DFB Ligapokal (2001, 2002)

The goalkeeper famed for opting to wear distinctive grey tracksuit bottoms as opposed to shorts, Kiraly remains Hungary's most capped player (108) and was a revelation at Hertha, where he played alongside compatriot Dardai. During Hertha's run to a third-place finish in 1998/99, the custodian conceded the fewest goals during the campaign.

In the following season, Kiraly - born and raised in Szombathely, Hungary's tenth-largest city - made ten UEFA Champions League appearances as the Berliners reached the competition's second group stage, the Old Lady having finished above Galatasaray and AC Milan in the opening section.

Kiraly racked up almost 200 Bundesliga appearances for Hertha and, although he had a short spell on loan at Leverkusen as back-up to Rene Adler in 2008/09, the Hungarian shot-stopper failed to make a single German top-flight appearance for the Werkself. Along with several stints at various English clubs, Kiraly featured in 168 Bundesliga 2 games with 1860 Munich. At Euro 2016, the 'keeper surpassed Lothar Matthäus to become the oldest player to ever appear at the tournament at 40 years and 74 days. He brought a 25-year playing career to a close in 2019.

Gabor Kiraly (below c.) played 198 league games for Hertha - doing so in his distinctive jogging bottoms. - Marcus Brandt/Bongarts/Getty Images

Peter Gulacsi
Appearances: 202 (67 clean sheets)
Club: RB Leipzig
Honours: DFB Cup: 2021–22

Leipzig's 2022 DFB Cup winning captain joined the Saxony-based side when they were plying their trade in Germany's second division back in 2015. His Bundesliga debut followed later, in a 2-2 draw at Hoffenheim in August 2016, and the goalkeeper has gone not to play 202 times in Germany's top flight.

Starting out at local side MTK Budapest, Gulacsi moved to Liverpool before making a succession of loan moves within England's lower divisions. He opted to settle in Austria at Red Bull Salzburg in 2013, featuring in 65 games over the next two years prior to moving to that team's sister club in Germany.

Peter Gulacsi (c.) and his Leipzig teammates celebrated DFB Cup success in May. - Dean Mouhtaropoulos/Getty Images

Gulacsi was part of the Leipzig team that finished their maiden Bundesliga campaign in second place, while his saves helped the team from Germany's former East reach a DFB Cup final in 2019, which they lost to Bayern. The 'keeper and his Leipzig teammates would make amends for that loss - and the 2021 final reverse against Dortmund - when they saw off the challenge of Freiburg to lift the DFB Cup for the first time following a penalty shootout win in Berlin in May. Gulacsi made his senior international debut for Hungary against Denmark in May 2014 while prior to that, was a key member of the side that collected bronze at the 2009 FIFA U20 World Cup, and is set to earn his 50th cap when facing Germany at his adopted home of the Red Bull Arena in Leipzig.

Willi Orban
Appearances: 158 (19 goals)
Club: RB Leipzig
Honours: DFB Cup: 2021–22

Born in Kaiserslautern, Orban is the son of a Hungarian father and has amassed 33 caps for Hungary to date. Joining the Lautern youth academy at just four years old, the defender made his first-team debut with The Red Devils as a substitute in a 3-0 Bundesliga loss against Bayern in August 2011.

Willi Orban (c.) forms an integral part of RB Leipzig's setup. - IMAGO/Ulrich Hufnagel/IMAGO/Ulrich Hufnagel

Having been tried out on the right side of defence and in defensive midfield, Orban began to shine at centre back in 2013/14, with Kaiserslautern playing in Bundesliga 2. He went on to captain the side as he featured in 68 league games and was even named Die roten Teufel's Player of the Season for 2014/15.

Moving to Leipzig in 2015, Orban immediately settled into the starting XI and enjoyed promotion to the Bundesliga with an exciting young side. A superb second-place finish in Germany's top division was followed by UEFA Champions League football, Orban even captaining the team on occasion, a task he would become more than used to as the seasons followed.

To date, Orban has featured in eight seasons in Leipzig colours, scoring 24 goals in 251 games across all competitions. He has reached three DFB Cup finals with Die Roten Bullen, finally lifting the trophy with Leipzig in May, and he was also part of former Leipzig coach Nagelsmann's side that advanced to the Champions League semi-finals in 2019/20.

His debut for Hungary came in a Nations League encounter against Greece on 12 October 2018 and he has gone on to score five goals in those 33 senior international appearances for his country.