Pulisic & Chelsea: Why he should complement whizkids – not force them out
COMMENT: There's just no respite. Not in this game. Especially not at Chelsea. One moment you're celebrating a coup. Burning off Europe's biggest to land a potential world-beater. The next? You're hit square in the eyes with a major dilemma. And one which the ramifications could be felt for years…
First the good news. Christian Pulisic. 20 years of age. USA captain. A ten-year signing. A franchise player, as they say in the 'States.
In Dortmund, they can't believe it. 18 months of his contract left. A bench player at best under Lucien Favre this season. Usurped by England's wunderkind Jadon Sancho in the process. But don't let those claims fool you.
Yes, in Bundesliga terms €64m for a lad who can't get into a starting XI is mad money. But you'd like to think those German critics had a bit more about them. Chelsea aren't signing Pulisic for the here and now. As stated, he's for the long-term.
A year ago he was a world-beater. Forget Chelsea, it was Real Madrid and Bayern Munich pushing BVB to open negotiations. So what's changed? Erm, how about youth? 20 years of age. The inevitable trough that follows the peak of a teenage breakout player. Pulisic is simply going through the same growing pains that has hit so many before him.
Pace. Power. Even those in Germany who run him down admit Pulisic has these natural qualities in abundance. But one source claims he's 'positionally limited'. Which again is some appraisal give the lad's youth. Similar could've been leveled at Cristiano Ronaldo at the same age.
Nothing in football is a sure thing. But this is a coup. There's a reason why Dortmund's canny directors, Michael Zorc and Hans-Joachim Watzke, insisted upon Pulisic seeing out the season in Germany. BVB, under Favre, are genuine title contenders and a team with Pulisic to call upon has a better chance than one without.
But what of the dilemma? Well, for some clubs it'd be a nice problem to have. But the ramifications could be enormous for Chelsea.
Just as Marina Granovskaia was signing off on the Pulisic deal, offers totaling a cool £50m were landing on the managing director's desk. Bayern had just made their third bid for Callum Hudson-Odoi. From £15m to £20m. The latest now in front of Granovskaia is £30m. And from a little closer to home – and on the same day – Wolves submitted an £18m proposal for Tammy Abraham. The striker currently away with Aston Villa reinforcing a reputation first generated from a loan spell at Bristol City.
For the bean counters, it's a no brainer. And pure profit. Two lads from the academy. At a cost of next-to-nowt. Now they could both leave for almost £50m. Within 24 hours, the Pulisic deal virtually paid off.
But what message would it send to the next group of kids coming through the Cobham ranks? Indeed, what would the message be to the likes of Andy Myers, Jon Harley and the rest of the coaching staff inside the academy? Are they developing players for the first team? Or for profit?
You can't say morale won't be hit. Particularly after seeing Dominic Solanke and Rhian Brewster slip away to Liverpool. To now lose Hudson-Odoi and Abraham would be a blow to those who have spent years with all four young attackers since they were junior players. It really is one of the best kept secrets inside English football the work being done year-after-year by the coaching staff at Chelsea. The problem is, all that expertise and experience is being poured into talent for the benefit of rival clubs. It really shouldn't work like that.
"Well, there is the Dutch kid," one long time source told this column last week when chatting about the U18 team. That "Dutch kid" is Daishawn Redan. Staff at Chelsea really think they have something in the former Ajax striker. Even Piet de Visser, the man who brought the likes of Kevin de Bruyne, Thibaut Courtois and Romelu Lukaku to Chelsea, is a fan.
"He is a cool striker who scores very easily, which is something special, something elusive, difficult to train and therefore makes him special," says De Visser, who still has the ear of Roman Abramovich, the Blues owner.
Trouble is, will Chelsea fans get to see Redan as a first teamer? Indeed, will the lad want to hang around if he sees Hudson-Odoi and Abraham go the same way as Solanke?
The positive news is Chelsea are attempting to convince Hudson-Odoi to stay and sign a new deal. But if Bayern go to £40m, then they're likely to cash in. In Abraham's case, it's worse. Only FIFA stand in the way of a move to Molineux. His minders now seeking clarification over whether an appearance for Chelsea U23s counts against him. No player can appear for three different clubs in the same season.
On paper. On pure potential. An attacking trio of Pulisic, Abraham and Hudson-Odoi is something for Blues fans to be excited about. Yeah, it's the stuff of fantasy calcio. But it's a dream within reach. As De Visser would be quick to remind us – just think De Bruyne, Lukaku and Mo Salah…
It's been a good week for Chelsea. A good week for Granovskaia and the brainstrust she's put together. But Pulisic should arrive to complement what they already have. Not convince them to go.
Abraham and Hudson-Odoi need to be persuaded to stay. And granted their chance. They deserve it. As do all those staff who need to see their hard work being recognised at the top of the Chelsea pyramid – and not at an elite rival.