In 2019, Chelsea paid £57.6 million to Borussia Dortmund for Christian Pulisic. Now almost midway through his third season at Stamford Bridge, Pulisic has played in 81 matches with 53 starts and tallied 18 goals and 11 assists. That included an especially good run of form during Project Restart to close out the 2019-20 season in the early days of the pandemic, scoring four goals and assisting on four more through the nine-game span, playing an instrumental role in the Blue securing a top-four Premier League finish.
But that was well over a year ago now, and a lot has changed at Chelsea. Frank Lampard isn’t the manager – Tommy Tuchel is, and he doesn’t seem to like Pulisic as much as the previous boss. In fact, he got such little game time in Tuchel’s first few months on the job that speculation began to swirl around whether or not the American would leave in the summer.
Pulisic did find his place in the Chelsea side by the end of the 2020-21 season, though, playing the full 90 in six of the team’s final eight Premier League contests and coming on in the FA Cup Final and Champions League Final.
We haven’t seen much of him yet in 2021-22, but that’s not been by choice. A positive COVID-19 test and bad ankle injury have kept Pulisic sidelined for much of this season, though he just recently returned to action, featuring in the final minutes of Chelsea’s 1-1 draw against Burnley on Nov. 6, his first Premier League action since the first game of the campaign. He also appeared for the United States on Friday and Tuesday against Mexico and Jamaica, respectively, in important World Cup Qualifiers, even scoring a giant goal versus Mexico in that victory.
But will the Pulisic of July 2020 ever return under Tuchel at Chelsea? There have been rumblings of some clubs showing interest, but that’s not unusual for these rumors to happen, regardless of validity. Still, should Christian Pulisic leave Chelsea for a club and manager that will put him on the field more often?
Should Christian Pulisic Leave Chelsea?
If you ask me, I think yes.
Now, there are things at play here that I don’t know and neither do you. How much does Pulisic like London? Does he enjoy the limelight that comes with it, or would he rather play in a more low-key environment? What’s his relationship like with his teammates? Does he miss Germany, where he played his formative years and speaks the language (granted, his English is pretty solid)?
But for the sake of this exercise, we have to assume neutrality on all of those questions. It’s about his on-field career in this article.
Tuchel is known for playing various formations, which means Pulisic will always have a chance at playing, as long as he’s healthy. But having already proven he’s good enough to play in the Premier League and at top-level clubs in the world at just age 23, should Pulisic settle for a situation where he’s fighting for his spot and will miss games because Tuchel would rather get his width from the wing backs instead of playing a 4-3-3?
The opportunity to return to Germany would likely be available to Pulisic, and there have been reports that Bayern Munich and his former club Dortmund are keeping their eyes on him. Going back to the Bundesliga feels like an undoubtable success waiting to happen – Pulisic scored 19 goals and assisted 26 times in 127 appearances for Dortmund from 2015 to 2019, and Germany is really where he cut his teeth as a professional. A move back would be seamless, and he might find it easier to get into the team, especially at Dortmund.
Reports out of Italy also indicate Genoa is interested in the American winger, taking aim at bringing him to the club in January. I’m not sure a move to Serie A would be right for Pulisic, but the report at least illustrates potential suitors who could be in for the player.
Then there are the options in the Premier League, which Chelsea likely wouldn’t sell to but certainly make for fun thought experiments. Liverpool has yet to re-sign Mohamed Salah to a new deal, which makes his future at the club in question, and Sadio Mane has had his disagreements with Jurgen Klopp at times in the last year and hasn’t been the same player he was in 2019-20 for a while now. Also, Tottenham would make for an interesting experiment with Pulisic up front with Harry Kane and Son Heung-min. But these are pipe dreams, particularly Spurs, because Chelsea will have no incentive to send its talented No. 10 to a domestic competitor.
But the point is, the volatility and clear lack of necessity of Pulisic at Chelsea means continuing his career elsewhere would likely be for the best. Chelsea is absolutely stacked, with Kai Havertz, Timo Werner, Callum Hudson-Odoi, Mason Mount, and Hakim Ziyech all capable of starting over Pulisic on the wing or in an attacking midfield position, and Ross Barkley and Ruben Loftus-Cheek both technically exist, too. And when Tuchel chooses to play without wings, that makes it that much more difficult for Pulisic to find a way into the side as one attacking spot is often swallowed up by a center back and wing backs are asked to bomb forward to provide width. For someone who is still so young yet so clearly an incredible talent, should he accept playing less than he’s capable of at a top European club? I say no.
Plus, this is Chelsea we’re talking about – there is a reasonable chance there will be a new manager in place by the start of the of 2023. Is that kind of instability good for a young career? I say no.
I’m not sure leaving in January is the right move, but if Christian Pulisic can’t find a consistent spot in the lineup and generate some positive form in the second half of the season, then he should be taking his talents to another club this summer.