Yussuf Poulsen discusses RB Leipzig's rise to the Champions League
Yussuf Poulsen, who had been out with an injury, was back in the RB Leipzig lineup for their 3-0 victory over Borussia Dortmund on the weekend and might make his season debut against Real Madrid at the Bernabeu on Wednesday.
It is yet another indication of the club's transformation sinceYussuf Poulsen
's arrival. Since relocating to Germany's east coast as an adolescent, the Danish 28-year-old has been forced to adapt to a constant stream of novelty.
In those days,RB Leipzig
played in the third tier of German football. Since the club's inception in 2013, Poulsen has witnessed its expansion and has contributed to it in various ways.
"Where we are sitting right now, this was non-existent at the time that I came; it was only in the planning," As we chat, he explains inside the club's excellent training facility directly over the river from the massive
Red Bull Arena
. No longer a third-division club.
"What you see here as the academy, there was nothing here except earth. If you see pitch one with the small stadium, that was also not here. We had some containers that we had built to be our dressing room, our gym and our sauna. It has come a long way in terms of the infrastructure of the club. Now we have a stadium with 48,000 people. Sold out. For my first home game, there were 9,500 people." He smiles. "So there has been a lot of change in the nine years that I have been here."
In Germany, RB Leipzig is often criticized by fans of other clubs for having no history. This criticism just increases the significance of Poulsen's continuous presence. As the record holder for appearances, he is living history. Back in Denmark, they were perplexed by Poulsen's decision to sign when there were presumably better chances available. But Ralf Rangnick convinced him of Leipzig's huge goals, and as he matured as a player, so did the club.
"I would not be here if that development had not been so exaggerated over the years because, of course, you are always looking to reach your highest level. Leipzig has done that for me throughout my career. Always challenging and always taking the next step."
The current head ofBayern Munich
, was a former roommate.
"He helped me a lot at the start but we helped each other a lot. We were kids at the time. He was 18; I was 19. We had a great time for two years. It was really fun. We are just grown-ups together now. We have five kids, he has three, and I have two. We have developed a lot as people since that time. Of course, we were third-division players at the time that we came here. Now he is at Bayern Munich, winning the league every year. A lot has happened since we were in the flat together but we are still close."
Kimmich agreed to join Bayern Munich at a young age. Last year,Marcel Sabitzer
made the same move. Dayot Upamecano, Ibrahima Konate, Naby Keita, and many others have been through Poulsen. Timo Werner came, left, and returned. "There have been a lot of players coming and going."
Some achieved much greater success. Others have retreated, failing to maximize their abilities. Poulsen endures. He recognizes that his success was not inevitable, and after 81 goals and 330 appearances for RB Leipzig, success is exactly what it is. "If I knew the secret I would tell anyone that I wanted to help."
"I don't think that there is one way to get success. There are always different ways for different people. Other players that I was playing with before Leipzig who would not have come to Leipzig were probably more talented and better players than I was. There is no secret. There is just working hard every day to keep up. More or less my whole career I have had to go for the next level. I was not the biggest talent who had people telling me I was going to be a star and going to be a professional football player.
"That is why the fit was so good for me because I was always striving for the next level. That is how it always was through my youth. There were always two or three players better than me. That is why I think the mentality of the club was just a perfect fit for me."
Poulsen's awareness of the serendipitous nature of opportunities in a football career probably began far before his transfer to Leipzig. Once, he attended his friend Christian Norgaard to a trial and used the experience to secure a contract with Lyngby. Notably, they have now invested in Tonsser, an app that provides opportunities for unsigned athletes from outside the academy system. The endeavor resonated with the discerning Poulsen.
"I have always been inspired by helping people. I think what they are doing is very, very interesting to try to give people a second chance of achieving their goals in football. That is why I think it is a great initiative. Being a football player I have some insights, I have some experience in the matter. I have also myself been a young player who was not the best and was not the number one and was not the guy who everybody said was going to be the next national team player who goes to a World Cup and stuff. I saw a little bit of myself in the project."
Poulsen's comments about not being the best on the team run the risk of being misinterpreted. He was a crucial member of Rangnick, Ralph Hasenhuttl,
, and Domenico Tedesco's teams. Marco Rose, the team's new coach, may have discovered the same thing last week.
Rose must reverse the early-season performance that cost Tedesco his job in Poulsen's absence. The long-term objective is to decrease the gap on Bayern at the top of the Bundesliga standings, and perhaps end their decade-long supremacy.
"We have been a contender for a couple of years now or at least close to it. Bayern are still Bayern and are the best team in Germany. That is how it is. We have come close in a couple of years but they are still a little bit more consistent than we are. We have shown it before over one game that we can be on the exact same level but over 34 games that is our next step. That is our biggest development point. To be able to consistently perform at that level over 50 games. I think we are getting better at it. I think we are taking the right steps in the right direction."
Poulsen missed the beginning of the season due to injury, but is currently back on the training field. He had his wisdom teeth out, hoping this might make a difference in his quest to return to fitness in time for the World Cup.
"I cannot say for sure it is the reason but some studies were saying that wisdom teeth can have some impact on muscle injuries. I talked to the doctor and asked what the cons were of doing that and they said there were none so why not do it to make sure?"
A trip that began among the ground and the containers has not concluded after nine years. It will resume at the Bernabeu. "I am still only 28. I am at the peak of my career." He is the legend of Leipzig, establishing history at a club that supposedly has none.
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