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Chelsea Signs Christian Pulisic for $73 Million

Christian Pulisic will finish the season with Borussia Dortmund.Credit – CreditFrancisco Seco/Associated Press

 

Published in The New York Times, on Jan 02nd, 2019, By Rory Smith

Chelsea has paid Borussia Dortmund $73 million to complete the signing of Christian Pulisic, making the 20-year-old the most expensive American player in history by some distance.

Though moving to the Premier League has “always been Christian’s dream,” according to Dortmund’s technical director, Michael Zorc, Pulisic will have to wait six months for it to be realized. He will spend the remainder of this season on loan at the Bundesliga leader, before joining up with Maurizio Sarri’s team in the summer.

In a heartfelt statement posted on Twitter on Wednesday morning, Pulisic thanked the German club for the “opportunities” it had offered him since he arrived as a “raw, excited, very nervous but exceptionally proud 16-year-old from a small American town called Hershey.”

He said it had been an “honor and a dream” to play for the club, and a “privilege” to experience the support of Dortmund’s fans. He told fans there was no need to doubt his “passion, determination and 110 percent commitment” as Dortmund attempt to win a first German title since 2013.

He had, however, made it clear in recent months both to Zorc and Hans-Joachim Watzke, Dortmund’s chief executive, that he did not intend to extend his contract — due to expire in 2020 — at Signal Iduna Park. Instead, he had set his heart on moving to England, something related to his “American background,” according to Zorc. “Against that background, we have decided to accept an extremely lucrative bid from Chelsea,” Zorc said.

The fee — more than three times the amount Wolfsburg paid Hertha Berlin for John Brooks, the German-born U.S. international, in 2017 — makes Pulisic the third most expensive player in Chelsea’s history, and the third most expensive player ever purchased from a Bundesliga team.

It represents something of a success for Dortmund given that Pulisic has started just five of the team’s Bundesliga fixtures this season, having recovered from injury to find the likes of Jadon Sancho and Jacob Bruun Larsen blocking his path. He has started more regularly in the Champions League, featuring in all but one of Dortmund’s group games as the German team qualified with ease for the competition’s last 16.

 

For Chelsea, though, Pulisic’s appeal had not faded. Aside from the likely marketing benefits of employing the most high-profile American player of his generation, Marina Granovskaia, the director who oversees the Premier League team’s transfer activity, described the signing as something of a coup for Pulisic’s on-field qualities.

“Christian has shown his quality during a fantastic spell in Germany and at just 20, we believe he has the potential to become an important Chelsea player for many years to come,” Granovskaia said. “We look forward to welcoming him to Stamford Bridge in the summer and wish him and Dortmund every success for the remainder of the season.”

Pulisic described the chance to sign for such a “legendary club” as a “privilege,” and said he “looked forward to being a contributor to their team of world-class players.”

Whether Chelsea’s most obviously world-class player — Eden Hazard — remains in place when Pulisic arrives, though, remains open to question. The Belgian has admitted on several occasions that he is tempted by the prospect of a move to Real Madrid at the end of the season, though he has not agreed terms with the Spanish team and Real have not so much as submitted an offer to Chelsea, let alone had a bid accepted.

Even if Hazard — whose contract also expires in 2020 — chooses to stay, the signing of Pulisic is likely to herald the departure of Willian and/or Pedro, despite the fact that Sarri has increasingly relied on playing both of them as he seeks to earn a place in the Champions League in his first year in charge at Stamford Bridge.

Both are now in their 30s — Chelsea has a policy of not offering long deals to players approaching the end of their careers — and will be out of contract in 2020, too. Though Pulisic is not necessarily a like-for-like replacement for any of them, his arrival suggests Chelsea is starting to contemplate a long-anticipated overhaul of its squad as it seeks a way to keep pace with the likes of Manchester City and Liverpool.

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