In many ways, the transfer of Christian Pulisic from Borussia Dortmund to Chelsea is jaw-dropping.
The American winger was sold to Chelsea on the second day of the January transfer window for a fee of £57.5 million). He was then immediately loaned back to Dortmund for the remainder of the 2018-19 season.
It is, by some distance, the highest fee ever paid for a United States international player. It is also, according to Roger Gonzalez of CBS, the 27th most expensive transfer fee of all time.
Pulisic, 20, broke onto the international scene for both club and country as an 18 year old, and has since shined. He has played and scored in meaningful Champions League matches for one of the best clubs in German football, and he nearly singlehandedly carried the US Men’s National Team to the 2018 World Cup.
This signing is a landmark moment for US Soccer. As previously mentioned, Pulisic’s massive price tag is the highest ever paid for an American, and it also means the United States will be represented, perhaps prominently, at a top-six English club.
Liebe Borussen ?? (????) pic.twitter.com/nAKgF1sHdI
— Christian Pulisic (@cpulisic_10) January 2, 2019
Pulisic’s moved to Chelsea, despite the hefty price-tag, is a win for everyone involved: Chelsea, Dortmund, and the player himself.
Let’s start with Chelsea. The Blues had an obvious need for a winger, particularly on the younger side. Both Willian (30) and Pedro (31) are on the wrong side of 30, and Chelsea’s superstar Belgian Eden Hazard has been constantly linked with a move to Spanish giants Real Madrid.
Another one of Chelsea’s prized wingers, 18-year-old Callum Hudson-Odoi, has generated interest from Bayern Munich this winter.
Pulisic not only fits a need for the club positionally, but he is also a stylistic fit as well.
Bleacher Report’s Sam Tighe notes that, “Positionally, he is a great dribbler and has a high work rate.” That makes him an excellent fit in manager Maurizio Sarri’s high octane attacking system, which requires wingers to play both industriously, and with flair.
Pulisic’s hefty transfer fee makes him the third most expensive signing in the club’s history, behind goalkeeper Kepa Arrizabalaga, and striker Alvaro Morata. He is less than a million pounds more expensive than Jorginho, Sarri’s first high-profile signing for the club.
The deal makes sense for Pulisic, the player, as well. Not only is he raising his international profile by moving to a higher profile club, but he also is more likely to get on the field.
Despite being a mainstay in the Dortmund starting XI for the past two seasons, Pulisic has been displaced by English prodigy Jadon Sancho. The 18-year-old has burst onto the scene this year, and has quickly become one of England’s most promising young players, a feat even more impressive considering how rare it is for high profile English players to play outside of the Premier League (England took all Premier-League squads to the World Cup in 2010 and 2018, and 22/23 players in 2014 played in England’s top flight league).
Sancho has more games (25) to Pulisic’s (20), more goals (6) to Pulisic’s (3), and more assists (9) to Pulisic’s (2).
Sancho is, simply put, more in favor at Borussia Dortmund, and, as hard as it is to say, may have a higher ceiling than Pulisic. Thus, Pulisic has been relegated to a bench role, and has been displaced at his preferred position.
A move to Chelsea will give him a better shot at consistent first team football.
Pulisic’s transfer is perhaps best for Dortmund, who have done a terrific job in recent years at maximizing sales of their top players (ever since inexplicably letting Robert Lewandowski join rivals Bayern Munich for free back in 2014).
Since the summer of 2016, Dortmund have sold over 330 million Euros worth of players — Pulisic is joint-second highest, with Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, behind only Ousmane Dembele (the third most expensive player of all time).
The German outfit have done an excellent job at selling their best players, reinvesting in talented youth, and remaining competitive– something that a team who acts in a similar manner, Monaco, have failed miserably at.
Dortmund sit six points atop the Bundesliga table, and are in the last 16 of the Champions League. Monaco, who two years ago won Ligue 1 and made it to the semifinals of the Champions League, are floundering in the relegation zone in the French top flight.
Pulisic, despite not starting, still is a key cog in Dortmund’s first team. By retaining the American on loan for the rest of the year, Dortmund to not compromise their squad depth, as they continue to battle on three fronts, and mount their challenge for their first Bundesliga title since 2011-2012.
This is a rare move that benefits all parties (both clubs and the player) in the short and long term, and will be an exciting story to watch unfold in the coming months.