bundesliga

Yussuf Poulsen: RB Leipzig’s irreplaceable Danish dynamo

RB Leipzig striker Yussuf Poulsen has been at the club since they were in the German third tier – and eight years later the Dane is delivering yet again for them in 2021/22.

Poulsen’s third Bundesliga goal of the campaign was an example of the desire he has to make a difference. Correctly judging the flight of the ball from a corner, he showed real determination to creep around the back of Eintracht Frankfurt defender Almamy Toure and bundle home Leipzig’s tenth goal from a set-play this season.

“The ball came off the back of my thigh for the goal,” Poulsen revealed afterwards. “I wanted to get the ball over the line however I could.”

It was Poulsen’s second important goal in as many Bundesliga games. Although they were ultimately pegged back by Eintracht in a 1-1 draw on Matchday 10, the week before the 27-year-old had helped Leipzig come from behind to pick up three points. He needed just over a minute after coming on at half-time to get his side level against Greuther Fürth, and five minutes later he rolled his man to earn a penalty. Emil Forsberg converted it, and Leipzig went on to win 4-1.

Watch: Poulsen strikes for Leipzig in Frankfurt

“Yussuf Poulsen turned the game around alone,” Leipzig coach Jesse Marsch said afterwards. “He was absolutely ready, and we’re really grateful for his performance.”

Swedish attacker Forsberg was also keen to highlight the “fantastic job” Poulsen had done.

“It’s always important that the players bring passion and mentality when coming off the bench,” he said.

Poulsen, who also netted in the 6-0 hammering of Hertha Berlin on Matchday 3, maintained that he was only doing his what he was paid for.

“I simply play my game and try to do everything I can,” he said.

The Denmark international has been putting his body on the line for Leipzig since July 2013, when he joined the club from Lyngby as a 19-year-old. He got 10 league goals in his first seaso to earn the first of two promotions, and he has since finished as a Bundesliga runner-up on two occasions.

With over 300 appearances to his name, Poulsen has played more games than any other player in Leipzig’s history. And he is clearly relishing extra competition following Andre Silva’s arrival in the close season.

Silva came closest to dislodging Robert Lewandowski as the Bundesliga’s topscorer in 2020/21 - scoring 28 goals for Frankfurt - but the Portuguese forward is facing a real battle for a starting spot thanks to Poulsen’s never-say-die attitude.

The 6’3” frontman’s best return in the top flight was when he found the net 15 times in the 2018/19 campaign, but it would be foolish to judge his contribution on goals alone. He has regularly proven himself the ultimate team player, wearing down defenders by rarely letting a ball forward go uncontested as well as doing more than his share of intensive pressing out of possession.

Watch: The best of Poulsen in the Bundesliga

“With or without the ball, he’s a machine,” Leipzig defender Willi Orban once said of Poulsen. “He does an incredible amount of work for us.”

Poulsen previously proved the perfect foil for Germany forward Timo Werner - who got 78 Bundesliga goals for Leipzig between 2016 and 2020 - and he is continuing to prove any detractors wrong since Marsch’s appointment in the summer.

It was with players like Poulsen in mind, no doubt, that Marsch declared in August that Leipzig “probably have the most strength in depth in the league.” It helps that the American already knows his burly striker, thanks to a previous stint as Leipzig’s assistant coach in that prolific 2018/19 campaign.

It’s not just at club level that Poulsen is a key player. Part of the Denmark squad that reached the last 16 of the 2018 FIFA World Cup - he scored the only goal against Peru in the group stage - he also netted against Belgium and Russia to help them reach the UEFA Euro 2020 semi-finals.

Poulsen now has 64 caps and has become one of his country’s key players in a golden era for Denmark. - Mads Claus Rasmussen via www.imago-images.de/imago images/Ritzau Scanpix

The Copenhagen native has also started six games in Denmark’s hugely successful 2022 World Cup qualifying campaign. Led by former Mainz coach Kasper Hjulmand, the Danes are already assured of a place in next year’s finals in Qatar after winning eight from eight in qualifying.

The devoted Dane – who wears ‘Yurary’ on his national team shirt in memory of his late father – has always put himself at the service of others for club and country. He’s synonymous with Leipzig’s relentless rise, a rare player in this fast-moving era of football, the striker who has spent years asserting himself and making him indispensable.