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Christian Pulisic on BVB, USMNT, Premier League future

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Christian Pulisic is only 18 years old. The fact we need to constantly remind ourselves of that fact says it all.

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The Pennsylvania native has burst onto the scene in the past 12 months, becoming a star for the U.S. national team and Borussia Dortmund and is hailed as the next great star of American soccer after his first full season as a pro in the Bundesliga.

Rightly so. The kid is legit.

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Speaking exclusively to ProSoccerTalk just two days after scoring his fifth goal for the USMNT in a 1-1 draw with Venezuela in a friendly, Pulisic was looking forward to the challenge of the U.S. facing Trinidad and Tobago and Mexico this week as qualifying for the 2018 World Cup in Russia has reached a crucial stage for Bruce Arena’s men.

Below is our chat in full as Pulisic announced his new partnership with Panini America.


You just won the German Cup, your first major trophy. You came off the bench and won the penalty kick which ultimately won Dortmund the game. What was that experience like?

It was incredible. After such a tough, tough season with so many ups and downs in my first full professional season, just being able to end it with a trophy was really special. I am just really happy to see all the excitement on the guys’ faces.

What are your thoughts on Thomas Tuchel’s sudden departure from Dortmund? 

I was very thankful for everything he did for me, giving me the chance at such a young age and getting a start to my professional soccer career. It is something I will always remember him for and I am very thankful for that. It is tough when it happens in professional sports but now he is gone I think the team will be just fine with whoever we end up getting.

You featured in the UEFA Champions League for the first time this season, how do you rate Dortmund’s campaign?

It was always a dream for me to play in the Champions League. Getting that experience and that exposure against the biggest names and teams in the world, it was really amazing for me. I just learned so much so I am just going to take that and continue to bring it in my game and take it into next season when we are in the Champions League again. I am very excited.

As for future with Dortmund, you just signed a new deal and seem very happy. There was a lot of talk about you moving to Liverpool over the past two transfer windows, so is the Premier League somewhere you’d want to play in the future?

It was the biggest league I followed as a kid and watched. The league has a lot of players, and teams, I liked in the Premier League. Right now, it is not something I am looking to get into immediately or anything like that. I am happy at Dortmund and I am excited for the rest of my career.

Focusing on the U.S. national team, you scored your fifth goal at the weekend and you role is really developing on the team. How have the veterans — the likes of Clint Dempsey, Michael Bradley, Geoff Cameron, Tim Howard — helped you settle since you made your debut?

Those guys have been great to me. Obviously they mess with me a lot and stuff like that. It is pretty normal though, since I’m a young kid. I’ve learned so much with them giving me their feedback and what they see and helping me to improve not just our team game but me individually as well and what I can do to help the team. It’s been great learning from those guys and being able to play alongside them when I was just watching them a few years ago on TV!

With two huge World Cup qualifiers coming up, what would be a good points tally from the two games? And how much are you looking forward to the atmosphere at the Azteca on Sunday against Mexico?

I am really excited. My teammates can only tell me how crazy those games are but I got the experience of playing against Mexico once and it is all about going in there with the confidence and belief we can win and get three points there. If we go in with that mentality then we won’t have a problem. We are going to have to fight for 90 minutes and I feel confident we can do that.

In the past at ProSoccerTalk we spoke to one of your youth coaches about you. They said you’re big NBA fan and you love LeBron James. Is he your ultimate sporting idol?

Absolutely. He has been one of my biggest role models, even though it is not the same sport. It is amazing what he does in his sport and that he can dominate for so long and keep himself healthy and really under so much pressure, how he carries himself. That is what impresses me the most and so many people can look up to that.

With your partnership with Panini America, did you collect their trading cards during previous World Cups? Any players in particularly you had to collect and were idols?

It’s hard to say specifically which players I collected but I loved it, I still have a book at home of the cards I collected. Now, being able to see my face on a card is pretty special.

What are your targets for the next 12 months? Russia is on the horizon, so is your aim to be playing a leading role for the U.S. at the 2018 World Cup?

Absolutely. I like to set more short term goals and right now it is just to qualify for the World Cup and if we put all of our focus on that then people should definitely see us come 2018 in the World Cup.

Finally, what drives you each day to improve and do you let the hype get to you? Every day you must hear people comparing you to Landon Donovan and Clint Dempsey and hailing you as the “savior of US Soccer” 

For me, it [the pressure] is really not difficult to handle. I put more pressure on myself than anyone else does, so I don’t need to look or listen to that stuff. It really doesn’t impact me. I just try to push on every day and with the support system I have in my family, I am just really happy to do what I love and to get the chance to do it every day is really special.

WATCH: World Cup, Day 10 — All eyes on Germany

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Many of the favorites in the 2018 World Cup have disappointed, but until Argentina fell 3-0 to Croatia on Thursday, Germany was the only one to suffer a defeat.

[ MORE: Latest 2018 World Cup news ] 

Die Mannschaft fell to Mexico in their opening match, with El Tri carving up the German midfield on the counter. Now, Joachim Low has had ample time to make the adjustments needed to go for victory as the Germans take on Sweden as they chase a spot in the knockout stages among Group F.

Meanwhile, Mexico looks to prove they’re not a one-hit wonder as they take on South Korea in Rostov. Juan Carlos Osorio has received plenty of praise – and rightly so – for his tactics in the upset victory, and that leaves El Tri with a chance to clinch a spot in the knockout stage with a win.

Before all that Group F craziness, Belgium takes the field in the morning against Tunisia as they look to follow up its comprehensive 3-0 victory over Panama in the opening round. A victory for the Red Devils would not only book a place in the knockout round, but also eliminate Tunisia from contention.

Below is Saturday’s schedule in full.

Click here for live and on demand coverage of the World Cup online and via the NBC Sports App.


2018 World Cup schedule – Saturday, June 23

Group F
South Korea vs. Mexico: Rostov-on-Don, 11 a.m. ET – LIVE COVERAGE
Germany vs. Sweden: Sochi, 2 p.m. ET – LIVE COVERAGE

Group G
Belgium vs. Tunisia: Moscow, 8 a.m. ET – LIVE COVERAGE

Kluivert junior leaves Ajax for Roma in $21m transfer

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ROME (AP) — Roma signed Justin Kluivert, the son of former Milan and Barcelona forward Patrick, from Ajax on Friday for a fee that could rise to 18.75 million euros ($21.8 million).

The 19-year-old Dutch international forward has agreed a five-year contract with Roma.

“I’m very happy. I’m at an incredible club,” Kluivert said. “I cannot wait to start. I believe that Roma is the ideal team for my growth, which will allow me to play at the highest levels.”

Kluivert junior made 56 appearances and scored 13 goals for Ajax. He has one cap for the Netherlands.

He joins Roma for an initial 17.25 million euros ($20.1 million) and performance-related clauses could see the price rise by 1.5 million euros.

Ricketts family, owner of the Chicago Cubs, interested in purchasing AC Milan

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The Ricketts family, who purchased a controlling stake in the Chicago Cubs back in 2009, have interest in further pursuing ownership in financially troubled Italian club AC Milan.

According to a family statement, “The Ricketts family brought a championship to the Chicago Cubs through long-term investment and being great stewards of the team … They would bring this same approach to AC Milan.”

First reported by the Chicago Tribune, the news of the Tom Ricketts’ interest in the team comes on the heels of news that current owner Li Yonghong had failed to meet a Friday deadline for a $37 million loan payment. According to reports, the missed payment means that Li will cede control of the club to Elliott Management, who loaned the Chinese businessman the money to complete his initial purchase of the club last April.

The Chicago Sun-Times also reported the family’s interest in the club, and quoted their source as saying, “The Ricketts put together the management team, resources and training facilities [for the Cubs]. [They did] everything you need top to bottom to be successful.”

Ricketts has plenty of history in soccer ownership, having previously been a part of the group that owned English club Derby County before selling back in 2015. This May, Ricketts also announced he was leading an investment group that is looking to bring a USL expansion team to Chicago.

Forbes values AC Milan at $612 million – a massive 26% 1-year decline – and ranks them the 17th most valuable soccer club in the world. That valuation could be further on the decline, as the storied club missed out on Champions League qualification for the fifth straight year, although they qualified for their second straight Europa League appearance with 6th place finish in last year’s Serie A table, eight points behind Lazio in fifth.

AC Milan also faces heavy sanctions from UEFA regarding Financial Fair Play, although those fears could be eased with the financially-troubled Li selling the club.

The Ricketts family’s wealth comes largely from investment banking, with Tom’s father J. Joseph Ricketts having founded Ameritrade back in 1975. Tom is estimated by Forbes to be worth $1 billion, while his father has an estimated net worth of $2.1 billion.

Xhaka, Shaqiri display controversial goal celebrations in win over Serbia

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A seemingly innocuous goal celebration performed by both Granit Xhaka and Xherdan Shaqiri has thinly veiled, politically charged undertones and could potentially land the pair in FIFA disciplinary proceedings following Switzerland’s 2-1 win over Serbia.

Both displayed a bird hand signal as they celebrated scoring goals, and considering their pre-match comments, post-match social media posts, and ethnic backgrounds, those were clearly meant to represent the double-eagle symbol in the middle of the Albanian flag.

This is a complicated political scenario, but it could be considered by FIFA to be politically provocative. Shaqiri is Albanian, born in Kosovo before moving to Switzerland with his parents and three siblings when he was just a year old. Kosovo declared its independence from Serbia in 2008 and is not recognized as a sovereign nation by Serbia. Xhaka is of Albanian descent, and his father previously participated in a demonstration against the communist Yugoslavian rule in Kosovo that landed him a lengthy jail sentence. Albania and Serbia have a particularly tumultuous relationship, with their leaders meeting for the first time in over 60 years in 2014, which caused tempers to flare.

Following the match, Xhaka posted a picture of his celebration on his Instagram story, with the caption in Albanian roughly translated to, “Here you go Serbia, this is why they call me Granit Kosovo!” He deleted the post, and replaced it with an image of his celebration side-by-side with Shaqiri’s, with the slightly more cryptic caption, “We did it, bro!” in English.

FIFA is wildly against any type of political demonstration or involvement in the world of soccer. The governing body has punished individual nation federations in the past for government involvement, while political demonstrations on the field are fiercely frowned upon.

Switzerland captain and new Arsenal signing Stephan Lichtsteiner came to the defense of his two teammates after the match. When asked about the celebrations, he said to Goal.com, “We had a lot of pressure, it was not an easy game for us. We have a lot of Albanians, so there is a lot of history between Serbia and Albania. It was a very tough game for them mentally.”

“It was good. Why not? This is the history for them,” Lichtsteiner continued. “The war between them was so difficult. I spoke to the father of one of our players who is Albanian, and he told me about this history. This is more than football. This is more than football because they have this period, this war that gave them both big problems. I understand them. I think it’s normal, it’s part of their life. There was also big provocation ahead of the game from them [Serbia], so I think it’s normal.”

Shaqiri could be in especially hot water. The Stoke City midfielder wore boots with the flags of Switzerland and Kosovo. He has made it clear in the past that he values his roots, saying, “I was born in Kosovo, but I grew up in Switzerland. I live both mentalities, it’s not a big difference.”

Switzerland finishes its World Cup group stage round with a match against Costa Rica on Wednesday in which a win would secure a spot in the knockout stage.