SHORT HILLS, N.J. — Christian Pulisic is just four Premier League games into his career with Chelsea, but the 20-year-old U.S. national team headliner is loving life in England so far.
“It’s everything I hoped it would be and more,” Pulisic told reporters Wednesday in suburban New York City, where he and his American teammates are preparing for Friday’s friendly match against rival Mexico at the Meadowlands. “The speed, it’s very intense. The games are very intense. Every single game I’ve played so far has had a new challenge.”
Pulisic was signed from German Bundesliga power Borussia Dortmund in January for a whopping $73 million transfer fee, almost quadrupling the previous record for a U.S. player. He was loaned back to Dortmund for the final six months of last season before arriving at Stamford Bridge this summer. He’s now working under Blues legend Frank Lampard, who took over in July after Maurizio Sarri left for Juventus.
“They’ve helped me so much over there getting accustomed to everything, and it’s been great learning under Frank,” Pulisic said of the club. “I’m still learning a lot and have a long way to go, but it’s been great so far.”
Pulisic starred in last month’s UEFA Super Cup loss to Champions League holder Liverpool, but his reviews have been mixed in Prem play. Chelsea sits 11th in the league table, having won just once so far. Last weekend, they squandered a two-goal lead in a disappointing 2-2 draw at home against newly promoted Sheffield United.
The club’s slow start and Pulisic’s lack of goals — he scored twice during the preseason but has yet to find the target through five competitive matches, although he’s helped create goals during build-up play — has drawn criticism from some corners. Pulisic is occupying the wing position in which Eden Hazard, who left for Real Madrid this summer, excelled for years with the Blues. But Lampard has stuck with the young American, starting him in three consecutive league matches.
And Pulisic is enjoying playing for the former England national team midfielder, who led Chelsea to a Champions League title in 2012 before spending three seasons in MLS. Given his own history with the London club, Pulisic admitted that the younger and more approachable Lampard is probably a better fit for him than Sarri would’ve been.
”Yeah, it worked out really well for sure,” Pulisic said. “Frank’s a great guy and he’s helped me so much. He understands where I’m coming from, and he’s done a really good job teaching us, especially a lot of the younger guys on the team and also mixing well with some of the more experienced guys. And it’s been a pleasure to work with him.”
“Any time a player is playing, and especially playing at a club like Chelsea and getting minutes, I think it speaks for itself,” U.S. teammate Weston McKennie, who helped German side Schalke reach the knockout phase of the Champions League last season, said of Pulisic. “He’s doing well in training, he’s doing what he has to do to get on the field. And it’s not like his position is only one or two players. His position is real deep.”
Lampard has used Pulisic on both wings, where he faces competition from veterans like Willian as well as fellow blue-chip youngsters such as Mason Mount. He’s also taken on added responsibility compared to his four seasons in Germany. ”Learning to help more with the defensive side of things, Pulisic said, “has been a really good challenge for me as well.”
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