A $73 million American who is only 20 years old appears destined to set English soccer ablaze
Photo by Reuters - Kim Kyung-Hoon
- Christian Pulisic appears set to compete in his very first Premier League match on Sunday.
- The 20-year-old American is one of the biggest names in Chelsea FC's roster, and could feature against the club he supported as a boy - Manchester United.
- Pulisic says playing in England as a kid inspired him to success, and that DC United star Wayne Rooney was the player he looked up to most.
- "I've been waiting a long time for this and playing in the Premier League has been one of my biggest dreams," he said.
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Christian Pulisic has been a Manchester United fan since he was a boy. On Sunday, he could have the chance to fulfill his childhood dream and score at Old Trafford - just not in the colour red.
Instead, America's 20-year-old soccer sensation will walk out of the tunnel this weekend donning the royal blue of Chelsea FC, having joined the Londoners earlier this summer after agreeing a $73 million move from Borussia Dortmund in January.
"I've been waiting a long time for this and playing in the Premier League has been one of my biggest dreams," Pulisic said in an official Chelsea statement in May after finally joining his new teammates ahead of the club's pre-season campaign. "To be a Chelsea player is a huge honour and something I'm really excited for."
But playing soccer on English soil isn't new territory for the US international.
Pulisic, Chelsea's third most expensive signing ever, was born and raised in Hershey, Pennsylvania, but his family moved to the small Oxfordshire town of Tackley in 2005 due to his mother's work commitments.
Here, Pulisic wasted little time getting stuck into the nation's sport, joining the academy of local team Brackley Town FC, according to The Athletic. And the Chelsea star says it is here, at humble beginnings, where his love for the beautiful game began to take flight, and he started considering soccer more than just a hobby.
"A lot of people don't realise but it really brought on my passion for the game," he told the Mail Online in 2016. "I just started to love it so much and I said: 'Wow. I'm pretty good! I think I can do something with this game.'"
As well as a passion for the game itself, Pulisic also admitted he took a shine to the English style of play, particularly idolizing Wayne Rooney, the record goalscorer of Manchester United - a man he saw in action multiple times during his brief spell in Britain.
"Rooney was a very passionate guy, and I loved watching that about him," Pulisic told reporters last year, before England's 3-0 win over the US at Wembley Stadium, London. "He worked so hard, and my dad always told me he was a good guy to look up to. I still agree with that."
However while Rooney is representing DC United in the MLS, five months away from returning to England to join Derby County, in a strange twist of fate, Pulisic is the one tasked with lighting up the Premier League, just as his boyhood hero once did at 20 years of age.
Pulisic, again like Rooney once did, carries the expectation of a nation on his young shoulders as American soccer fans will be watching his every move, hoping he's the global superstar they've been craving for so many years after seeing other hyped prospects underdeliver in Europe, like Freddy Adu and Jozy Altidore.
But Pulisic will also be expected to make an instant impact at Chelsea in the wake of club icon Eden Hazard's departure, who left Stamford Bridge for Real Madrid earlier this summer.
Pressure is something Pulisic is no stranger to however.
In September 2016, when he was only 17 year old, Pulisic stepped out onto the cold, hard ground of Warsaw as Borussia Dortmund's youngest ever UEFA Champions League player. Unfazed, he produced a Man of the Match performance in a 6-0 thumping over Legia Warsaw, even providing an assist for the team's fifth goal, scored by Gonzalo Castro in the 76th minute.
Three months later, he became the youngest foreign-born goalscorer in Bundesliga history when he found the net in Dortmund's 3-0 win over Hamburger SV. The next week, he scored again in another 3-0 win, this time against VfB Stuttgart, making him the youngest player of any nationality to score twice in the German top flight.
Such lofty achievements have been mirrored on the international stage. On only his third appearance for the US, Pulisic rifled home again to become the USMNT's youngest ever scorer at the age of just 17 years, eight months and 12 days.
Watch Pulisic's first international goal here:
On Sunday afternoon, the heat will be on again for Pulisic, with the once Brackley Town starlet almost certain to make his inaugural Premier League appearance against the club he previously adored as a kid.
But given his rapid rise to stardom, as well as his impressive pre-season form for Chelsea it would not be surprising for history to repeat itself, and for Pulisic to rise above the pressure to break United hearts at the weekend, and commence his journey to become the poster boy for an exciting new era at Stamford Bridge.
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