Commentary

The $73 million Pulisic deal: Winners all around

The Christian Pulisic sweepstakes are over. English club Chelsea agreed to a 60 million euro ($73 million) transfer fee to acquire the 20-year-old American from Borussia Dortmund. Chelsea has loaned Pulisic back to Borussia Dortmund for the remainder of the 2018-19 season. He will join Chelsea when the window of summer registrations opens in July.

Before we look at what the deal means to the parties involved, let's put the transfer fee in perspective:

-- The $73 million fee is more than three times the previous record for a U.S. international -- John Brooks moved from Hertha Berlin to Wolfsburg for $22 million in 2017 -- and more than five times the record for an American-bred U.S. international -- Jozy Altidore was transferred from Dutch club AZ to Sunderland for $13 million in 2013.

-- The $73 million fee is the third highest fee Chelsea has ever paid for a player and and the eighth highest fee in the history of the EPL.


What Pulisic gets. Christian Pulisic gets his dream move: a chance to play in the EPL.

In many ways, his first formative soccer year was spent in England. He was 7 when his mother, Kelley, accepted a Fulbright Scholarship to teach in Oxfordshire. The family resided in the village of Tackley. Christian played soccer all afternoon after school and for a youth team at Brackley Town but also tagged along with father Mark, who traveled to clubs across England as he worked on his UEFA coaching license.

At Chelsea, Pulisic should get a chance to play. The assumption is that Eden Hazard will leave his summer. Brazilian Willian and Spaniard Pedro are likely on their way out, and Callum Hudson-Odoi, whose contract expires in June 2020, could force the issue.

Pulisic should also get a chance to thrive under Italian manager Maurizio Sarri, whose attacking philosophy fits the young American's strengths.

Finally, Pulisic gets to leave on his own terms. He forced Dortmund into the move now because it would have gotten nothing for him if he left after next season. And he gets to play out his last season at Dortmund -- even in a reduced role -- on the best team it has had since he joined the first team and likely leave -- if everything goes well -- as a Bundesliga champion.



What Chelsea gets. First of all, the structure of the deal allows Chelsea to acquire Pulisic before FIFA imposes a transfer ban as punishment for abusing FIFA regulations about the signing of minors. No sanctions have been handed down, but they could be as severe as two years -- four transfer windows.

By signing Pulisic now, Chelsea also beat out other EPL clubs interested in signing him. Since he first broke into the starting lineup in a big way in the 2016-17 season, Pulisic has been linked to Liverpool -- managed by Juergen Klopp, his first coach at Dortmund. The Reds, first in the EPL and deep in attacking talent, might not have any current need for Pulisic, but Chelsea would have had potential competition from London rivals Arsenal (whose newly appointed technical director Sven Mislintat was at Dortmund when Pulisic signed) and Tottenham and perhaps Manchester United. Of the EPL's big six, only Manchester City was not recently mentioned as a potential suitor.

Most important, Chelsea gets leverage in case Hazard's demands to stay become too high. (The assumption is that the 28-year-old Belgian will move to Real Madrid next season.) Pulisic isn't a player who will ever fill Hazard's shoes, but his signing assures the Blues won't be left scrambling on the summer transfer market.

What Borussia Dortmund gets. First of all, the German club gets $73 million for a player who cost it nothing.

It also gets $73 million for a player who has dropped to fourth on the club's depth chart among outside attackers behind English teen Jadon Sancho, Dane Jacob Brunn Larsen, who is one day younger than Pulisic, and French-born Portuguese star Raphael Guerriero.

(If Pulisic is worth $73 million, Sancho, only 18, will easily top $100 million, and could break the club record fee for Ousmane Dembele, whose move to Barcelona could top eventually $150 million.)

Dortmund also gets $73 million for a player who would have left for nothing in June 2020 and showed no interest in re-signing.

“It was always Christian’s dream to play in the Premier League," BVB sporting director Michael Zorc. "That certainly has to do with his American background, and as a result we were unable to extend his contract. Against this background, we have decided to accept an extremely lucrative bid by Chelsea, given the low contract maturity."

Pulisic's role has been reduced this season -- just five starts and 11 appearances in 17 Bundesliga games -- but he also provides cover for Dortmund on what shapes up to be a busy winter and spring.

It entered the winter break with a six-point lead over Bayern Munich and is seeded in the round of 16 in the UEFA Champions League, where it will face Tottenham. It has also reached the round of 16 in the German Cup, where it faces Werder Bremen.

There will be plenty of situations where Dortmund still needs Pulisic.
5 comments about "The $73 million Pulisic deal: Winners all around".
  1. Bob Ashpole, January 2, 2019 at 7:56 p.m.

    I don't think this is a good move for Pulisic's long term development. First it is the EPL. Second Chelsea plays a 523 with a defensive block of 7 and a long ball attack. He is perfectly suited to play this system right now, but he would benefit more from playing for a club that isn't so dependent on player speed for attacking and defending.

    The problem is that very few teams can afford to pay such a high transfer fee for anyone, much less for such a young player who isn't even a regular starter for his club.

    I wish the best for him and hope his time at Chelsea will fulfill his dreams. 

  2. R2 Dad, January 3, 2019 at 11:27 a.m.

    I think it's too soon for Pulisic in the PL. Bayern would have been a better immediate fit as Robben's replacement, but maybe Gotze convinced him otherwise. Would have better to come to the PL at 26 when physically mature--he's going to take a beating in England. Is Chelsea's manager going to protect him in overly-physical matches like Dortmund did 2 years ago? Does he get a break during Christmas? He's been injured this last fall--what are the odds he will be injured more frequently/more severely in the PL?

  3. John Polis, January 3, 2019 at 12:49 p.m.

    The kid wants to go. He's ready. He's been in the big time long enough to know what it will be like. We need our American players to take on the biggest challenges they are capable of, if they are to take the next step that includes being leaders of our national team. Anyone who has started for BD isn't going to find anything in the EPL that he can't handle. Go for it, young man.

  4. R2 Dad replied, January 4, 2019 at 2:03 p.m.

    If Pulisic thinks fighting for a spot on a team in London is going to be easier than fighting for a spot in Dortmund, he's not ready. How has he responded to being replaced by Sancho? 1 goal and 2 assists. He's setting himself up for failure. And here I thought his father was properly advising him.

  5. beautiful game, January 6, 2019 at 11:47 a.m.

    Paul..."winners all around"? A bit of a premature opinion, I dare say. Let's see how much playing time he gets at Dortmund while on loan, and than Chelsea. He'll have to prove his metal at every game like everyone else.

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