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What a careless? That make superstar Christian Pulisic failed at Chelsea



When Chelsea initially agreed to sign Christian Pulisic from Borussia Dortmund for a £58 million ($74m) fee in January 2019, anticipation was high. Former Chelsea director Marina Granovskaia described him as “one of the most sought after talents in Europe” after the deal was announced, and outlined the club’s vision for his future.When Chelsea initially agreed to sign Christian Pulisic from Borussia Dortmund for a £58 million ($74m) fee in January 2019, anticipation was high. Former Chelsea director Marina Granovskaia described him as “one of the most sought after talents in Europe” after the deal was announced, and outlined the club’s vision for his future.

Pulisic has already agreed personal terms with Milan, where he is set to reunite with former Chelsea team-mates Fikayo Tomori, Olivier Giroud and Ruben Loftus-Cheek. And Serie A could be the ideal place for him to reignite his career.

The Italian top-flight is less demanding than the Premier League, and Pulisic should have a far easier time getting regular minutes for the Rossoneri than he has at Chelsea. It would certainly make no sense for new Blues boss Mauricio Pochettino to try and keep hold of him.

Pulisic failed to deliver under Frank Lampard, Thomas Tuchel and Graham Potter, despite being given plenty of opportunities. Some players just aren’t cut out for life at one of the top clubs in English football. But what exactly went wrong for the U.S. superstar at Chelsea?

During an appearance on former United States international Jermaine Jones’ podcast 13&ME in May 2020, Pulisic opened up on his first day at Chelsea. He finally joined up with his new team-mates in July 2019, after being loaned back to Dortmund for six months.

“The team had already started pre-season in Japan so I flew straight there and I had to literally fly by myself and then meet the team who had flown from London,” he said. “I had to go straight to the hotel and the next thing on the schedule was to go straight to training. I was tired, nervous and didn’t know what to think but, ‘I’m at Chelsea and this is insane’.

“I got on the bus, they had just arrived as well. Everyone is half-asleep, I go and sit on the bus and nobody even noticed me. Nobody said anything. There were maybe one or two guys who said ‘hey, hello’ and I was like, ‘what’s going on here?’”

Pulisic added: “Those first couple of days of training I was nervous. You know what it’s like when you move to a new team. They’re nice guys off the field, but to earn that respect you have to show on the field you have that ability, that’s just how it is.”

Perhaps unsurprisingly, the American made a slow start to life at Stamford Bridge. Lampard handed Pulisic his full debut in a 4-0 loss to Manchester United at Old Trafford, and he kept his spot for subsequent August matches against Leicester, Norwich and Sheffield United.

Pulisic then found himself dropped to the bench throughout September, and didn’t start again until an away clash with Burnley on October 26. But the rest served him well.

Chelsea ran out 4-2 winners at Turf Moor, and Pulisic scored a ‘perfect’ hat-trick by netting with left foot, right foot, and headed attempts. It was a stunning performance that showed exactly why the Blues had made such a huge investment in his services.

Pulisic became the first American player to score for Chelsea that day, and the youngest man to ever score a treble for the club at 21 years and 38 days old. He followed it up in style too, scoring in subsequent wins against Watford and Crystal Palace.

But the former Dortmund star was unable to sustain that form, and he suffered a tear to his abductor muscle in the new year that kept him out of action for the best part of six months – including the Covid-19 enforced break in the season.

To Pulisic’s credit, he returned with a spring in his step, and recorded eight goal contributions in his final nine appearances of the campaign, including a sublime individual effort against Manchester City. There was genuine optimism among supporters that he could go on to become a key player in 2020-21 as a result – as comparisons were made with Chelsea hero Eden Hazard – but he would never hit the same heights again.

Pulisic’s second season with the Blues didn’t start well as the cracks in Lampard’s system became more and more apparent. By the end of January, Chelsea had dropped to ninth in the Premier League and Pulisic had just one goal to his name.

Roman Abramovich took the “very difficult decision” to relieve the club legend of his managerial duties, and Thomas Tuchel was on hand to replace Lampard after leaving Paris Saint-Germain a month earlier. Tuchel won two Ligue 1 titles at PSG and took them to a maiden Champions League final, after being snapped up from Dortmund in 2017.

Tuchel brought genuine pedigree back to the Stamford Bridge dugout after the failed Lampard experiment, and it also looked like good news for Pulisic at the time. The pair had previously worked together at Dortmund, with Pulisic fast-tracked into the senior set-up under the German.

But it quickly became clear that he would not enjoy the same favour with Tuchel at Chelsea. During his first two months at the helm, Pulisic didn’t start a single Premier League game.

“Maybe his biggest problem is that I know him from Dortmund and I think he started only in the cup games,” Tuchel told reporters when asked to explain Pulisic’s reduced role. “It is my responsibility and it is a bit unfair but I know what impact he can have in the last 20 or 30 minutes.”

Pulisic did his utmost to maximise his time on the pitch, and ended up playing a key role in Chelsea’s unlikely run to Champions League glory. He scored the Blues’ only goal in the first leg of their semi-final tie against Real Madrid at Santiago Bernabeu to secure a 1-1 draw, and then provided the assist for Mason Mount to wrap up a 2-0 victory in the return.

Chelsea clinched Europe’s ultimate prize after a 1-0 victory over Manchester City in the final, with Pulisic impressing after coming on as a 66th-minute substitute. He became only the second American player in history to lift the trophy in the process, but the joy of that night in Porto wouldn’t last for long.

The winger made some explosive revelations in his biography, ‘Christian Pulisic: My Journey So Far’, a year later – which took some of the gloss off his European success with Chelsea. Pulisic criticised Tuchel for not starting him in the second leg against Real, writing: “I’d had a really good first leg performance and our following match was against Fulham in the league.