This will have been the first question every U.S. men’s national team fan asked: is this transfer to Chelsea the right step in Christian Pulisic’s career?
And there is no simple answer.
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We all know that Pulisic was destined to play in the Premier League. He has said time and time again that he hoped to move there one day, and his love for the league is clear after his spell living in England as a youngster and watching closely from Hershey, Pennsylvania growing up. The fact Pulisic has arrived at one of the biggest clubs on the planet for such a massive transfer fee is a monumental moment for American soccer.
He has arrived at Chelsea for a huge $73 million fee and will join them in the summer after being loaned back to Borussia Dortmund for the rest of the current campaign. The players remaining at Chelsea when Pulisic arrives in the summer will likely dictate if his move to England and the Premier League is a successful one.
Chelsea host Southampton on Wednesday (Watch live, 2:45 p.m. ET on NBCSN and online via NBCSports.com) at Stamford Bridge and our Premier League analysts will be breaking down Pulisic’s move.
Pro Soccer Talk understands that Pulisic has been told that some key attacking players at Chelsea will be moved on between now and this summer to allow him to become a key player for the west London club. That is crucial as Pulisic has been on the outside looking in at Dortmund in recent months due to a few small injuries and the amazing form of England’s Jadon Sancho in his place. In that sense, Dortmund getting the cash they have for a player with 18 months left on his contract is great business, and Pulisic will feel like he’s upgraded too.
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He is not the first youngster to arrive at the Blues with huge expectations placed upon him, as the likes of Kevin De Bruyne, Mohamed Salah and Romelu Lukaku all failed to break through (under Jose Mourinho, not someone who gives youth a chance might we add) and reinforced the notion that Chelsea is a no-go zone for top young players. With Chelsea’s revolving door policy with managers, it is also a risky place for a player to fall out of favor quickly.
Pulisic’s character has so far seen him deal comfortably with being the golden boy of American soccer and he will be unfazed by everything swirling around him in the Premier League. Aside from the huge marketing potential Chelsea will see in having the first global American superstar in their squad, they have paid this huge fee for a reason. They believe in Pulisic’s talents.
Despite that, getting into this Chelsea team will be tough for Pulisic to do on a weekly basis. At least at first.
If Eden Hazard does stay at Chelsea and doesn’t head to Real Madrid, Pulisic will be fighting with Willian and Pedro for the one remaining spot out wide. However, his arrival is likely to signal the departure of either Willian or Pedro, or maybe both, and even if one of their wingers remains Maurizio Sarri has played with three wingers going forward many times this season. Having Hazard as a false nine with Pulisic and Willian buzzing around him could work very well.
That said, you cannot brush aside Chelsea’s track record of stockpiling young talent and then seeing many of their careers stagnating at Stamford Bridge. Pulisic falls into a slightly different category, but academy products Ruben Loftus-Cheek, Callum Hudson-Odoi, Nathaniel Chalboah, Nathan Ake, Tammy Abraham and many others have all had to move elsewhere (either on loan or permanently) to try and kick-start their careers.
The fact that Chelsea splashed this cash to sign Pulisic proves they are going to use him and he will be a key cog under Sarri. And that is perhaps the biggest plus for him signing for Chelsea. Sarri loves players who are able to possess the ball and press high up the pitch. That suits Pulisic’s game to a tee, and if Hazard stays this summer he will be able to link up and learn from one of the best players on the planet.
Even if Hazard leaves then Pulisic will be given a greater responsibility to be Chelsea’s main attacking threat. He may not score as many goals as he would like, but his creativity, pace and ability to play in multiple positions means he will slot into this Chelsea system seamlessly. Liverpool’s front three are going nowhere, and although Pulisic has a great relationship with Jurgen Klopp, a move to Anfield just didn’t seem like a good fit, at least right now.
If he gets the opportunity to play regularly, as he should do, then this move looks perfect for Pulisic.