We go again. After an emotional journey to the semi-finals of the Champions League, Die Roten Bullen have already started preparations for the 2020/21 season.
We sat down with Péter Gulácsi and spoke about a number of topics, including the emotional Champions League tournament in Lisbon and the shortened pre-season period, as well as the positive team spirit.
Pete, the summer break following this year’s Champions League in Lisbon is much shorter than usual. The DFB-Pokal game against 1. FC Nürnburg is just two weeks away! How are you approaching the start of the new season?
The Champions League tournament in Portugal was a really intense and emotional experience, so it was really important for us players to have some time to switch off and recharge our batteries. We’ve had a chance to do that and now we’re back, fully motivated and ready to go again.
This year’s pre-season is obviously anything but ordinary, but I think that we’ve adapted to these unusual times and we’re handling the situation well. We’re hungry and we want to get going again!
How has the Champions League tournament impacted the team’s pre-season preparations?
One advantage of playing in Lisbon is that we’re largely still in the rhythm of things. The games against Atlético Madrid and Paris Saint-Germain were a real challenge and helped us maintain our competitive edge. We had the chance to test ourselves against the best teams in Europe, which is a big boost to our preparations for this season. Similarly, we’ll go into the new season in top physical condition. All of this is essential as we’re not expecting an easy game against Nürnberg, but we’ll be ready. We want to do better in the DFB-Pokal this season but we have to be fully focused if we want to achieve that.
The sense of togetherness was always clear to see in Portugal. Was it a special team spirit?
Yes! We were in Portugal together for almost a week and a half and it felt like a special training camp for us. We became much closer as a team. The shared success and the emotions that we experienced in Lisbon improved the team spirit even more. You could see that in our game against Atlético Madrid.
That feeling enabled us to give absolutely everything in the last few minutes to fight for an historic achievement – making it to the Champions League semi-final. We managed that with the late winner, and then the celebrations were crazy in the changing room. That team spirit will play a key role in making sure that we can keep achieving our goals in the future.
Talking of achieving goals, we finished as one of the best four clubs in Europe this season. What’s the plan for 2020/21?
When we set our goals last season, we wanted to finish in the top four in the Bundesliga, which we did. It even looked for a long time like we would finish higher than third. Obviously nobody expected us to make it to the Champions League semi-finals. We want to be just as successful this season; reaching the semi-finals again is obviously a massive challenge. The competition in the Champions League is extremely strong, but we’ve shown that we can keep up with the top sides in Europe and we want to prove that again this season.
The DFB-Pokal is also really important for us. We’ve made the final once before and know how great that feeling is. That’s why we want to make it as far as possible and hopefully make it all the way to the final in Berlin – that’d be great! The important thing is that we keep going step by step in the right direction, and hopefully start the new season with wins in the cup and the Bundesliga. If we continue our development, I’m sure that we’ll have plenty of success in the future.
You’ve been at RB Leipzig since 2015. How do you assess the development of the last five years?
If you take a bit of time to reflect on it all, it’s absolutely crazy what the club has achieved in such a short time. When you look at the last five years, for example, we’ve made it from Bundesliga 2 to the semi-finals of the Champions League. It’s hard to believe how quickly we’ve developed as a club. There are some other players who have made the journey with the club from the second division like I have, and some even from the third division. Being able to experience the team’s development bit by bit has just been the best feeling.
At the same time, it’s confirmation that we’re on the right path and it gives us extra motivation to keep going. If we keep developing in this way, with this mentality and footballing philosophy, I’m certain that the club can also win a title soon.
Thanks for your time, Pete!