Yussuf Poulsen has been with RB Leipzig since the third tier. A dressing room leader, the Dane sat down - virtually - with bundesliga.com, to talk about the lockdown, winning trophies with RB Leipzig, and learning French…
bundesliga.com: Yussuf Poulsen, how has your time without football been? What have you been doing and how have you been keeping fit?
Yussuf Poulsen: “At the start we had a couple of weeks off when we stayed home. We were allowed to go running in the park and I live right next to a park so it was easy for me to get out and stay fit. I spend a lot of time with my six-month-old kid, it has been nice to spend some time with him. I was doing a lot of travelling before the coronavirus so it has been nice over the last few weeks to be able to wake up with him every morning and we could be together as a family. We don’t usually get this amount of family time. I’ve made the best of the situation.”
bundesliga.com: What do you use to train with and keep yourself fit?
Poulsen: “I have built a little training area in my home. I’ve bought some weights and some training equipment to use in my home. I can stay fit and in good condition. I’m doing a lot at home that I don’t usually do.”
bundesliga.com: How do you stay in touch with your family in Denmark?
Poulsen: “We have a lot of video conference calls. We made a deal to try and eat at the same time so we can use our laptops or iPads and have a conference call when we’re eating. Everybody can talk then, my sister is in her home, my grandmother in hers, my uncle in his, it’s quite nice. We’ve tried it a couple of times. It’s different but it works quite well.”
bundesliga.com: What do you usually talk about?
Poulsen: “Just normal chat. What’s going on, the situation. We live in two different countries and each country has different ways of dealing with the crisis so that’s been a big topic. You can now go to the shops in Germany with a mask on, that’s not the case in Denmark so we’re keeping each other updated on what’s going on. Hopefully I can also go back to Denmark soon so it’s good to know what to expect when I go back there.”
bundesliga.com: You must have had more spare time than usual, have you learned anything new or discovered a talent that you didn’t know you had?
Poulsen: “I’ve started learning French. I’m not that good yet but now I’ve started training I can speak to some of my French-speaking teammates. I can also juggle with tennis balls, I’ve got a lot better at that. I’ve learned to sing kinds’ songs, that’s one of my new-found talents! I’m going to keep that just for my son though, he’s not as judgemental as everyone else!”
bundesliga.com: You are now training in small groups, does that feel like normal life has returned? How does it feel to finally have grass under your feet and a football to play with?
Poulsen: “It’s a good feeling. Everybody in the team loves to play football, that’s no different to any other teams. We’re only happy when we’re out on the pitch! It’s really good to get started again and to play with a ball – that’s what we live for. It’s not quite normal, it’s not the same as if everybody was training together, hopefully that will change soon. We hear about them coming to an agreement about when we can start training as a team. Everybody is looking forward to that moment.”
bundesliga.com: What do you focus on when you return to training?
Poulsen: “Getting fit and staying fit. Touching the ball as much as possible. It has to be fun as well because it’s a difficult time for everybody at the moment. We can’t fully do the work we used to do because there’s no games. We have to mentally prepare ourselves as if it was an extra pre-season and stay focussed on getting fit and getting ready for whenever we can start again.”
bundesliga.com: How does Julian Nagelsmann lead training in these exceptional circumstances?
Poulsen: “There’s not that much tactical training, it’s more about having fun and touching the ball. A lot is about having fun, a lot of shooting, a lot of ball contact so you have the enjoyment of playing football and not so much of the tactical stuff that we’re used to when there are 22 or 24 of us.”
bundesliga.com: When the Bundesliga starts, there will be a lot which is different to before coronavirus, what will be the biggest challenge?
Poulsen: “I don’t know how many players have played in an empty stadium, that will be the most challenging. You normally get a boost from the fans and the atmosphere in the stadium, you now have to find that on your own. That’s going to be a big challenge for many players. You’re still setting up for an important game but it will feel a bit like a training game or a friendly. I think that will be the biggest challenge for a lot of players.”
Watch: Nagelsmann's tactical magic at Leipzig
bundesliga.com: You've experienced two promotions with Leipzig, been runner-up in the Bundesliga and debuted in the Champions League, do you have a favourite moment in your time here?
Poulsen: “Top moment? I don’t think there’s just one, I have had a lot of top moments at Leipzig. Every time I get asked this question the first thing that springs to mind is the promotion from the third to the second league because that was my first real achievement as a senior player. That was one of the most emotional moments of my career. Promotion to the Bundesliga, qualifying for the Champions League for the first time, getting through to the last 16, last 8. We have had a lot of big moments. Getting to the cup final in Berlin was also one of the biggest matches I’ve played. It was a bad result unfortunately but it was a big game. There have been a lot of highlights for me at Leipzig.”
bundesliga.com: Leipzig are currently chasing the top two, what makes your team so dangerous?
Poulsen: “We have quality. We are a good team with a lot of quality. We have such an even team – we have a squad of 24 players and I think everyone has started at least once. That’s not always the case to have so many players with the quality to play from the start. That’s why I think we are going to be dangerous in the league. If other teams have injuries or suspensions they are going to have problems, whereas we can just replace them with the next player. We have so much quality in the group it doesn’t matter if two or three players are injured, we still have enough quality to keep going.”
bundesliga.com: What is your role in Leipzig’s team?
Poulsen: “It depends, there are different types of role. There’s the role on the pitch and off the pitch. There are a lot of us who have been here a long time, we are a tight group and see things the same way. We are good at leading the leam in the right direction, that’s one of our strengths at the moment. There are so many players with the same mind-set to keep pushing forward so everybody knows what they have to do and who to listen to. On or off the pitch, it doesn’t matter. I’m a part of this group because I’ve been here a long time, I’ve played a lot of games. We have to keep developing these players to get them to pull in the same direction as everybody else. We have been very good at this in the last couple of years, that’s why we have been so successful.”
bundesliga.com: What has been good and not so good in Leipzig’s season so far? How would you describe the season overall?
Poulsen: “It’s been a great season so far. We’re in the top four coming into the last nine games. We are still in the Champions League, we got knocked out of the cup unfortunately, that’s maybe the only down side of the season so far. We set ourselves some goals for the season – to get through the group stage of the Champions League, to be in the top three of the Bundesliga. We’re heading in the right direction to achieve that goal, we’ve already achieved some of them and now we just hope we can get started again so we can finish off a great season.”
Watch: Poulsen's best game this season? A goal and and assist in an 8-0 drubbing of Mainz...
bundesliga.com: It is still all to play for in terms of the title race, what would make you happy at the end of the season?
Poulsen: “Winning a trophy! We have two still to play for. We’ll see if everything is completed, we still don’t know that but hopefully we can continue playing and maybe we can make that happen.”
bundesliga.com: What are your wishes with regards to the coronavirus, both personal and professional?
Poulsen: “For me the most important thing is not RB Leipzig or the Bundesliga, it’s everybody in the world. What I wish is just to get through this crisis with a little pain as possible. It has been very painful already for a lot of families so I hope as few people as possible get infected and die from the virus. Hopefully we can get over this crisis as soon as possible.”