Wednesday morning, the American soccer world woke up to a bombshell transfer involving its brightest star. In a transfer that had been rumored but finally confirmed, Christian Pulisic secured a €64 million move from Borussia Dortmund to Chelsea. Chelsea loaned Pulisic back to Dortmund for the rest of the season, but come July, the United States international will move to England and the Premier League.
The move was shocking not just in the team that won the Pulisic sweepstakes, but the amount of money that was involved. At €64 million, Pulisic’s transfer far surpasses John Brooks’ move to Wolfburg (€17 million) as the most expensive transfer ever involving an American. In fact, Pulisic’s move is almost as much as the rest of the Top 10 transfers combined (€72.4 million).
Christian Pulisic's transfer fee of €64M is nearly 4x the previous record for an American.— FOX Soccer (@FOXSoccer) January 2, 2019
And almost as much as the next 9 Americans combined (€72.4M). pic.twitter.com/fVj63Sfv23
The move has entered the stratosphere of the top transfers in world history, ranking 26th all-time. The transfer was the third largest in Chelsea history, after Kepa Arrizabalaga’s €80 million back in August and Alvaro Morata’s €66 million move from Real Madrid in July 2017.
With a move of this magnitude will come the pressure to perform. Make no mistake, the Bundesliga is arguably the top league in the world, with several world-class teams and clubs that compete for European titles every year. In Borussia Dortmund, Pulisic was getting playing time and developing with one of the biggest clubs in the world. Still, the pressure will be magnified by moving to Stamford Bridge and Chelsea, a team that expects to win the Premier League each year and compete for Champions League trophies and FA Cups as well. Owner Roman Abramovich’s desire to always have a winner fuels his preference to spend millions of pounds on the transfer market each season to get the best players he can that will bring him those trophies. Pulisic’s name is now not just on this list, it’s near the top of it. So, he will spend the next six months preparing to handle that pressure and perform every week in top form.
The next thought about his transfer among most fans is: will he play? Because of Chelsea’s tendency to spend big money on transfers. Still, some of the players that Pulisic would likely compete with for playing time are getting up there. Pedro is 31, Willian is 30, and Cesc Fabregas is 31. There’s talk about Eden Hazard, who turns 28 in a few days, making a move to Real Madrid either in January or when the summer hits. Mateo Kovacic is on loan from Real Madrid, and while it seems like he prefers to stay with Chelsea, he could also be gone at the end of the season. Even 18-year-old Callum Hudson-Odoi is reportedly trying to push through a move to Bayern Munich. Pulisic could enter a situation in July where he will be competing for starter’s minutes as part of a younger midfield core with Ruben Loftus-Cheek, Ross Barkley, N’Golo Kante and Jorginho distributing, and Morata playing up top in the 4-3-3.
There’s also the natural skepticism that American fans have that Pulisic just won’t see the field as much as they would like simply because there is a bias against American players. Sure, some English teams love their Americans. Fulham has had several American players over the years, as has Everton. Newcastle regularly has DeAndre Yedlin in the starting lineup, and other teams have trusted United States internationals with big assignments against the top team. Traditionally, American goalkeepers have always made a nice living in England, but it’s the attacking players that sometimes get buried at English clubs and eventually loaned out to other teams for their playing time. That translates to their performance on the national team, and Pulisic is vital to the resurgence of a men’s national team that’s hoping to retool and return to the World Cup.
Pulisic’s transfer is a big number, big enough that it should poke through the natural skepticism to give us all the belief that Chelsea plans on playing him. They will have league play, the Carabao Cup, the FA Cup, and likely either Champions League or Europa League, which leaves plenty of opportunities to play. Finally, a lot of the skepticism is really six months away. The team can change a lot between now and the time that Pulisic puts on the blue shirt. For now, fans can remain skeptical about how much playing time he will receive in a loaded lineup, but he broke through at Dortmund. We have to believe that he will rise to the challenge and crack the lineup when he gets to Chelsea.
In the meantime, Pulisic will ride out the rest of his time with BvB, where they are currently atop the Bundesliga, 6 points ahead of Bayern Munich. They’re still in Champions League and the DFB-Pokal, so he will have a chance to compete for three more trophies before he makes the leap to Stamford Bridge. When he does, the eyes of the world will be on him. Americans will tune in each week in droves to see what he can do against Liverpool, Manchester City, Manchester United, Arsenal, or even Southampton. People will unfairly judge his success at Chelsea and extrapolate it to the success of Americans in Europe. American’s prodigal son is only human, but he appears ready to put a huge weight on his shoulders. Let’s enjoy the rest of the time he has in Germany before he brings his talents to southwest London.