Comment and Analysis @ghostgoal
Christian Pulisic's move to Chelsea adds interest from United States
Pulisic made his debut for Chelsea against Kawasaki Frontale
Last Updated: 23/07/19 11:06am
Christian Pulisic's transfer to Chelsea is likely to spark unprecedented interest in his progress over in the United States, writes Adam Bate.
At the Tir Na Nog pub in the heart of Philadelphia sandwiched between Benjamin Franklin Parkway and John F Kennedy Boulevard, they are expecting a few more faces at the next early morning get together of the Philly Blues. This is the match-day meeting place of Chelsea's official supporters club in Pennsylvania - and one of their own is now a Blue.
Tir Na Nog is the Land of the Young in Celtic mythology and that's appropriate given what is happening at Stamford Bridge right now. Chelsea's transfer ban means there is likely to be a greater emphasis on bringing through young talent. Even the showpiece signing of the summer is 20-year-old United States international Christian Pulisic.
The Pennsylvania native is finally a Chelsea player having completed his £58m switch from Borussia Dortmund and expectations are high for a number of reasons beyond the player's control. The transfer ban adds pressure, of course. As does the fact he will be tasked with filling part of the vast void left following Eden Hazard's departure.
Pulisic is a talent in his own right, of course. A devastating dribbler capable of beating his opponent on the inside or the outside, first impressions were good when he came off the bench for his debut against Kawasaki Frontale. Pulisic is likely to get another chance against Barcelona on Tuesday with Frank Lampard praising both his quality and his attitude.
This is not news to his fans in the United States, where he is already the face of the game. The golden boy of US soccer, Pulisic became the youngest captain of the men's national team and was recently named young player of the tournament at the Gold Cup. For Bharat Ramprasad of Philly Blues, the signing is already ramping up the interest levels.
"For him to choose Chelsea was massive," Ramprasad tells Sky Sports. "It immediately set off a number of very excited conversations amongst Blues supporters in Philadelphia. He has connections to the Philadelphia region - his hometown of Hershey is just a few hours' drive away - which makes it even more impactful for those of us that live in the region.
"Some of our supporters watched him play when he was growing up and they have children that may have lined up against him in youth matches and so on. To have a 'local' boy who will now feature for Chelsea is incredible and not something that I would have thought possible when I first started following the club."
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Cultivating their supporter base in the United States has long been a desire for the major European clubs given the potential market of the world's biggest economy, but hyped-up friendlies on summer tours can only do so much. The arrival of Pulisic is different. It gives Chelsea the opportunity to harness the interest in the country's best player.
That will not be straightforward. Mainstream media coverage in the States can be parochial. As Sports Illustrated pointed out, a couple of seasons back there were more Google hits in the United States when Pulisic scored for his country against St Vincent and the Grenadines then when he netted for Dortmund in the knockout stages of the Champions League.
But the Premier League is a different beast to the Bundesliga and the anecdotal evidence from Ramprasad suggests this will have an impact. "Football here vies for attention alongside many other sports but those that do follow the sport tend to be passionate," he says. "And in particular those that follow the U.S. national team are extremely passionate.
"I have already heard from friends of mine who support the U.S men's national team but do not have a favourite Premier League team that they will now follow Chelsea as a result of Pulisic's transfer. There were many here that followed Dortmund solely because of Pulisic and I expect Chelsea will get the same benefit.
"He is the star and most popular member of the U.S. men's team by some margin and Chelsea's support in the States will absolutely benefit from that. To have someone who at the age of 20 is already being talked about as the most talented men's soccer player in U.S. history play for Chelsea is absolutely massive for interest in the club."
Of course, interest is one thing and success is another. Delivering on the pitch is what will really define Pulisic's time at Chelsea and that will be a challenge given the circumstances. This is a club in transition. Lampard's appointment brings uncertainty as well as optimism.
The encouraging thing for Pulisic is he is likely to be given the chance to succeed, something not all young players have had at Chelsea in the past. According to a Soccerex report this month, he ranks among the top 10 most valuable players in the world under the age of 21. The opening is there for him to show the Premier League why.
"With the injuries to Callum Hudson-Odoi and Willian as well as, unfortunately, Hazard's departure, he will presumably have every chance to get playing time early in the season," says Ramprasad. "In that respect, the timing of his move could not be better.
"I watched a lot of him this summer in the Gold Cup and his attributes - pace, movement, the ability to take on defenders and range of passing - should translate well to the Premier League. And based on what I saw last season even with Hazard in the team, and thus far in pre-season, Chelsea will absolutely need his help creating and scoring goals.
"I think he will be a success. His time at the club has obviously been very short thus far but I have been very impressed by how he has carried himself. He seems very humble and willing to work hard to make his mark on the club. If he continues to work hard and scores a goal or two against Tottenham he will be well on his way to becoming a fan favourite."
Over at the Tir Na Nog pub, that status is already secure.
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