PETER GULACSI walked away from Liverpool to join the Red Bull revolution and now stands as one of the leading keepers in European football.
The 27-year-old Hungarian joined the Kop academy in 2008 as a teenager from MTK Budapest.
However, like many youngsters in England at top clubs found his path to the first-team blocked, with Reds boss Rafa Benitez sticking with tried and trusted Pepe Reina.
Gulacsi joined RB Salzburg in 2013 without making an appearance for the Merseysiders, two years later joined RB Leipzig and has been on the journey from Bundesliga 2 to Champions League football within 24 months.
We meet at the club training complex, a ten-minute drive from the centre of town and just across the Elsterbecken river from the impressive Red Bull Arena, less than 24 hours after their first ever Champions League win against Porto.
Gulacsi said: “The win against Porto was a step in the right direction, but is still think we have not played to our full potential and shows we have the quality to reach the knockout stages.
“Once you get to the Champions League as a German team, you cannot have anything less than to get into the knockout stages, that is how we have to look at it.
“We had teenagers in the starting line-up who don’t have a lot of international experience but as a club we are hungry for success and that is what keepers us going forward.”
NAB FAB Naby Keita proved star status for RB Leipzig against Porto and Liverpool fans have reason to be excited
The Hungarian international nicely brings us onto the trend of young English players taking control of their careers and looking for first-team football in the Bundesliga.
Kaylen Hinds left Arsenal to join Wolfsburg for £2million, Ryan Kent is a regular in the Freiburg squad and highly-rated teenager Jaidon Sancho walked out of Manchester City to join Borussia Dortmund for £10m.
Gulacsi insists the German structure is designed to allow young players to thrive, unlike in England.
He added: “In England my feeling was the reserve league was still way behind the Premier League level, so there was a big gap.
“Players had to go on loan to fill the gap, in League One or the Championship to play competitive senior football, against Koln recently we started with 18-year-old’s in central defence.
“Here the second teams are playing in the fourth division, so you can have a taste of senior football straight away aged 18 or 19.
“The culture over here is different to England, we have fewer league games and one domestic cup competition, so we can focus more on improving in training, instead of just recovering in time for the next game.
“We have a lot of video analysis, really detailed work on the pitch and more tactical, the Premier League has unbelievable quality when you look at the teams and the so called ‘smaller teams’ have Spanish, Argentinian and Brazilian internationals.
“We have a Sporting Director (Ralph Rangnick) who is the head of all football and is paying attention to the youth team to the first team following the development of all the players.
“Then you have the head coach(Ralph Hasenhuttl) who is responsible for the first team.
“They are connected and working together and that’s why I think for young players in general in Germany it’s a better situation.
“In England it seems like the Head Coach is under so much pressure and his job is being discussed every week.
“This isn’t an environment in which the coach can put young players in the team, so they buy new players instead.
“So it is difficult to have that connection with young players in the academy, so in this structure it shows why Germany has so many young players coming through all the time.”
Gulacsi will watch as Naby Keita makes the opposite journey from Germany to the Premier League next summer when he moves to Liverpool for £48million and he thinks the Kop should get excited about the midfielder’s arrival.
He continued: “Naby is fantastic on the ball, he can make things happen from nothing.
“He is not a defensive midfielder but is good at winning the ball back off his opponent and starting quick counter attacks.
“Naby drives with the ball and picks out final passes, I think he had the most dribbles from a player in the Bundesliga last season and when he goes past players, the whole game opens up.
“He’s an exciting player for Liverpool and I know the fans they love talented players with heart and passion, Naby is one of them and will fit really well into that team.”
There has been speculation around the future of a host of Leipzig players, Emil Forsberg, Timo Werner and Gulacsi himself.
Gulacsi said: “You never know what the future holds, I can only talk about the present and I’m at the right place at the moment because I’m in an environment where I can improve and learn.
I’m 27, so as a keeper I’m getting to that age we called the ‘perfect keeper age’.”
“My aim as a kid was to play in one of Europe’s big leagues as an established number one keeper, which I am at the moment.
“There’s not much more I can ask for – I’m playing in the Champions League and I’m part of a club going forward.
Gulacsi’s agent James Lippett from World In Motion is not surpried the keeper in on the radar of Premier League clubs.
Lippett said: “We stay very calm about speculation, it’s normal when players are playing well, other teams will be interested in them.
“Peter is playing very well and has established himself as one of the most reliable goalkeepers in the Bundesliga.
“He’s a fantastic keeper with a top class mentality, Leipzig showed a lot of faith in Peter to make him part of their ambitious project.
“And so far it has been a successful relationship for both the player and the club.”
While speculation intensifies around Leipzig’s top stars, Gulacsi feels it’s vital the club keeps hold of their top talent in order to challenge Bayern Munich and Borussia Dortmund.
He continued:“Of course it’s important (to keep players) but when you are doing well, it’s natural the biggest clubs in the world are interested in your players, so far our club has done fantastic managing the situation.
“They kept the squad together this season to compete in the Champions League and when you play in the Champions League you also become attractive to top players.
“Our scouting system is unbelievable, most to the players here apart from the ones who arrived last summer cost no more than two million euros.
“The club has developed them here and they become top players and that’s the way this club will always go.
“We signed five or six players this summer and you can see with every game they are more and more part of the team and the quality they have is fantastic.
“So I don’t have any fears about what is going to happen in the future, because it is a very clever club.”
According to Kicker, the respected German football outlet, Gulacsi is rated higher than Bayern Munich’s Manuel Neuer this season, but he still feels he can learn from the best, including Manchester United’s David De Gea.
“Neuer has fantastic timing and physical ability, he’s a big guy, very explosive, quick and plays very bravely behind his defence.
“De Gea is fantastic and probably the best shot stopper in the business and arguably the most complete keeper out there.
“I like to watch both as I can take things from both of them, but the most important thing for a keeper is mental strength and both of them have it.”
Current Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp has been under increasing pressure in recent weeks, with his progress in England followed closely by German football fans.
But Gulacsi wants the Kop to be patient and is adamant the former Dortmund coach is the right man to take the club forward.
He continued: “Klopp is a big name here in Germany, what he achieved at Dortmund and rebuilt the club, he did a fantastic job.
“I know how the Liverpool fans and the city, they have great passion and so does Klopp.
“I think he’s a great fit for the club playing attacking football and slowly I think he will build something big there, it’s a club that deserves to be at the top.”
In Leipzig there is real energy about the club and it has nothing to do with the sponsors, they are a young, ambitious club in a hurry to scale the heights of German football.
Gulacsi continued: “We are not a ball possession team and we are not trying to bore the opponent looking for the moment to find a space and go forward.
“Right through the whole Red Bull group we play attacking positive football.
“It’s also an easier situation for us as we have a few players coming from Salzburg, so it’s a smooth transition and as a young player.
“It’s the perfect opportunity as well, this is how we play and this is how players are developed to play.”