Christian Pulisic’s $73 million transfer to Chelsea is a monumental moment in American soccer.
It could also be a huge clue as to the direction Chelsea is heading in over the next few years.
[ MORE: The right move for Pulisic? ]
Pulisic, 20, is now seen by many as the heir to Eden Hazard‘s Stamford Bridge throne, and despite many Chelsea fans being excited and intrigued to see how the USMNT star fares when he arrives in the summer, they will also be feeling a little dread that Hazard’s potential move to Real Madrid is edging closer.
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 in order to allow him to become a key player for the west London club. It is likely that was a big factor in Pulisic not selecting to join the likes of Liverpool, Bayern Munich or Manchester United who were also in the running for his signature.
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.
If the likes of Hazard, Willian and Pedro are on the way out, Pulisic, Callum Hudson-Odoi, Ross Barkley and even Ruben Loftus-Cheek look like being the future of the club. Aside from Hazard leaving, Chelsea fans will be excited to see their forward line freshened up.
[ MORE: Pulisic issues statement ]
Both Alvaro Morata and Olivier Giroud are surplus to requirements under Maurizio Sarri, and Hazard playing as the false nine doesn’t get the best out of his talents. If Hazard joins Real Madrid, Pulisic will be handed the keys to this Chelsea attack. He is young and hasn’t played in the Premier League before, but there’s no doubt he is one of those players that only gets better when playing with more talented players around him. The power and pace may take some time getting used to, but being fed by Jorginho, N'Golo Kante and others will surely be a dream for Pulisic to press high and use his trickery in the final third of the pitch.
But what about off the pitch?
Chelsea aren’t daft. They’ve just locked up the best player the U.S. has ever produced and will no doubt try and market Pulisic to boost their presence in the U.S. and North America as much as they can. Having Pulisic in their squad means that any time Chelsea will play on U.S. soil in the next few years, stadiums will be packed to see the kid in action. It is that simple. Chelsea will likely become the top supported PL team in the USA in the coming years if Pulisic is a star at Stamford Bridge during the prime of his career.
When it comes to the old shirt sales myth, the way these deals are structured means that Chelsea will not directly make back what they’re spending on Pulisic, but the player will no doubt gain huge value commercially by being one of the faces of the club. Whatever way you slice it up, Pulisic and Chelsea are good for one another from a business standpoint and the American player is being bought for more than his ability on the pitch. But that, crucially, seems to be the main factor here.
Sarri’s system of possession-based soccer and high-pressing suits Pulisic’s game well and now it is about him hitting the ground running in a Chelsea shirt in the summer. His arrival is exciting for Chelsea as they’ve beaten a number of rivals to sign Pulisic, but it also points to Sarri dismantling their current attacking lineup. If Hazard remains it will be a huge boost for everyone connected with Chelsea. If he goes, Pulisic will have plenty of pressure on his shoulders to emulate the Belgian magician.
Chelsea and Sarri are lining up the dominoes and Pulisic’s arrival will allow the others to start falling.