Just when it seems that Chelsea are merely consolidating, or falling behind in the market and thereby the Premier League, they come out with a move like this. There can be no denying its ambition. In Christian Pulisic, Chelsea have signed one of the most exciting and sought-after talents in the world.
It isn’t too far off buying Eden Hazard from Lille in 2012 in basic terms, even if the Belgian was significantly further ahead in his development then, and this is obviously not to say the US international’s career is guaranteed to go anywhere near as impressively. Pulisic has so much to much to do to even manage half of what Hazard has.
Just like the Stamford Bridge legend when he was a new signing in his early twenties in 2012, though, Pulisic has had so many top clubs after him – including a lot of Chelsea’s direct rivals. All of Liverpool, Manchester United and Tottenham Hotspur were at different points optimistic of signing the 20-year-old, along with Bayern Munich. Jurgen Klopp felt he would be the figure to bring the USA international to England.
This is precisely why Chelsea were willing to pay £58m for a player who is out of contract in 18 months.
And even though that is itself influenced by the fact three of those in his position – Hazard, 27 years of age; Willian, 30; Pedro, 31 – are themselves out of contract in 18 months, it does point to something else very relevant to the market and how English clubs are run.
Borussia Dortmund have lost yet another good young talent, but at the same time struck yet another brilliant deal, and really offered an example as to how you really bring young players through. That is something else Roman Abramovich should be looking at, if he is really that interested in Chelsea graduates coming through. Dortmund have made a virtue of this.
Sure, just as with happened with Jurgen Klopp’s side at the turn of the decade, there is the danger that constantly having to refresh the squad will bring dips, but the general approach is so productive and promising. That is reflected in their excellent season so far.
One Dortmund figure was known to be wryly commenting about how they’ve been able to build a new side – and one that is top of the table at that – through around £200m of Premier League money over the past few years. As one individual who knows the club well said, “you don’t mess around with Dortmund, they’re just too smart”. Getting to keep Pulisic until the end of the season is part of that. It has even been noted how he has become more of a squad player this season, rather than certain starter he was, and there are genuine questions over his capacity for handling big pressure.
Chelsea clearly, however, feel that he can. They are making an investment in burgeoning talent, as they seek to build a new side of their own.
There is also commercial value to complement that of the player’s, since one of the burgeoning football markets will now be singularly interested in Stamford Bridge. There is a lot of hope across the pond that Pulisic will finally become their global talent, and that could really open more business opportunities for Chelsea.
The basis of this decision is still football, though, and the formation of this new team and a new era. The hope is also that it doesn’t lead to another lost youth graduate. The Pulisic signing does feel like bad news for Callum Hudson-Odoi, who now seems even likelier to leave.