Péter Gulácsi has been one of the Bundesliga's most consistent goalkeepers for years, without fulfilling the cliché that goalkeepers are sometimes a bit crazy. The 31-year-old stands out not for his wild behaviours, but rather for his performance between the posts after previously being underestimated earlier in his career.
Before joining the Red Bulls in 2015 as a 25-year-old, Gulácsi had amassed experience at several stations since joining Liverpool FC from MTK Budapest at 17 years of age, going on to spend time on loan at a number of different clubs.
175 is a great number, but hopefully it will continue to grow.
DIFFICULT START AT LEIPZIG
He worked his way up through the ranks at the then third-tier English clubs Hereford United and Tranmere Rovers, finally playing in England's second division English Championship for Hull City in 2011. At Liverpool, however, the goalkeeper's appearances were limited to the reserves, prompting Gulácsi to move to the Austrian Bundesliga and RB Salzburg in the summer of 2013. After establishing himself as a regular, his journey led him to Leipzig two years later, who were still playing second-tier football at the time. "The journey I've had with the club is crazy. I came here in the second division. To have been able to celebrate promotion, become the number 1 and captain makes me very proud."
But the beginning was not an easy one. Competing with the established Fabio Coltorti and Benjamin Bellot, Gulácsi even started the 2015/16 season as the team's third choice. His moment came six months later when Coltorti suffered an injury in a match against Eintracht Braunschweig. Pete came between the posts and has held his spot to the present day. Since then, Gulácsi has made 175 Bundesliga appearances for RBL - a club record! "175 is a great number, but hopefully it will continue to grow."
CLOSE FAN TIES
Pete is a leader both on and off the pitch. Being close to the fans is a decisive factor for success as captain of RB Leipzig. A particular highlight was the DFB-Pokal tie against Bayern Munich in the 2017/18 season, when Gulácsi’s penalty saves kept RBL in the shootout. "GULÁCSI, GULÁCSI, GULÁCSI" rang round the crowd that night and the chant still holds a place in Pete's heart. "That was the first big sign of recognition from the fans and it was very emotional for me. Since then, it's just amazing what kind of support the team and I get from the supporters."
The Hungarian has been living this relationship since his arrival: "Of course, I try to give back as much as possible through my performances and my personality and try to make time for the fans - that's very important to me."
"CLEAN SHEET PETE": AT LEAST TEN SHUTOUTS IN THE EACH OF THE PAST THREE SEASONS
Aside from his undisputed quality between the posts, there is one other quality that makes Gulásci stand out. The goalkeeper very rarely makes a mistake. Additionally, the 31-year-old was able to build on his skills on the ball under former head coach Julian Nagelsmann. "Since then, I have been much more involved in our play and have a lot of touches. When you're not facing a lot of shots, it's even more important that you get it right with your feet," Gulácsi said of his evolution under the current Bayern coach.
The statistics have backed it up over recent years. RB Leipzig conceded the fewest goals in the Bundesliga in each of the 2018/19 and 2020/21 seasons. A great credit to the goalkeeper, who has had a double-digit clean sheet tally in each of his past three seasons and, with a shots saved percentage regularly over the 70% mark, Gulácsi is among the best stoppers in the league. No wonder he has been given nicknames like "Clean Sheet Pete" and "Pete The Wall" over recent years.
HUNGARY NUMBER ONE'S GLOVES ROUTINE
Talent aside, it is also his personality that makes Pete such an important player: at 31, Gulácsi is not only the second oldest player in the squad, but also Leipzig's record appearance maker in the Bundesliga, wears the captain's armband and, capped 44 times for the Hungary national team, represented his country at the European Championships and won player of the year for his team. He is also a support and role model that many of his younger teammates can look up to.
Thursday is wash day!
But what is the secret to the success? Without a doubt, hard training. But Gulásci has another quirk: "When I get a new pair of goalkeeper gloves, I wash them first - I always do it myself. Then I wear them for the warm-up before two games and the first time I use them in a match is on the third and fourth wear. So washing, warming up twice and wearing them twice in the game." Only then does he have the best grip. Gulácsi always has to think ahead to ensure his system works well. "Thursday is wash day, then on match days the following Saturday and Wednesday I wear them for the warm-up, before using them in the match the Saturday after."
Should something ever go wrong Pete always has a spare pair ready, but these are rarely ever needed. Only once did he throw away his gloves in anger at half-time after conceding too many goals. "Unfortunately, I can't remember that game - It might have been against Hoffenheim at home, but I've blocked that out now," smiles Gulácsi.
Good job, then, that this Saturday's game against TSG is on the road.