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‘Captain American’ Pulisic compared to Beckham & Rooney as England boss Southgate discusses pressure on USMNT star

15:39 GMT+4 08/11/2022
David Beckham Christian Pulisic Wayne Rooney
England boss Gareth Southgate says Christian Pulisic’s ‘Captain America’ tag makes the USMNT star ‘box office’ like David Beckham and Wayne Rooney.
  • Chelsea forward a key man for his country
  • Shoulders weight of expectation as skipper
  • Attracts attention like England icons once did

WHAT HAPPENED? The Chelsea forward has had to contend with operating under the brightest of spotlights since bursting onto a senior stage at club level with Borussia Dortmund and becoming skipper of his country at a young age. Pulisic is still only 24, but he carries the expectations of a nation on his shoulders and has to manage a level of pressure and celebrity that few in the world game are exposed to.

WHAT THEY SAID: Southgate, who is preparing to face the United States at the 2022 World Cup, has told ESPN of Pulisic’s big billing: “I've been fortunate that I lived that life in an England camp with Paul Gascoigne at the start, with David Beckham and with probably Wayne Rooney in terms of... we had other really outstanding players that you could argue were more influential for the team than some of those guys but their world was different. They were big box office, big story, big news story front and back pages and so that is a different dynamic for a coach to deal with and also the player themselves.

“In the end, of course, everything depends on playing well on the football pitch. But those big players do live a different life, there's different expectations around them. I think as a manager, you've always got to have an understanding of their world being different to everybody else's. But also, can you help them to deal with that? It is pressure. There's no hiding from that. You're on another level. That comes with great rewards, adulation and big marketing and sponsorship deals but in the end, if you don't deliver on the pitch, everything comes down more heavily on those guys.”

THE BIGGER PICTURE: Southgate added on the threat that Pulisic, who has been short on starts for Chelsea this season, will pose to his England side in Qatar: “I obviously watched him a fair bit at Dortmund as we had Jadon Sancho there at the time and then moving into Chelsea, I think that adaptation from the Bundesliga to the Premier League isn't straightforward for a start. He would probably feel he hasn't got quite to where he wants to get to yet, I'd imagine, but he's a very good player and is a player when you're looking at the opposition team sheet, he's someone you've got to be aware of and got to be ready for.”

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WHAT NEXT? England are due to face the USA in their second Group B fixture on November 25, with the Three Lions opening their World Cup campaign against Iran four days earlier, while Gregg Berhalter’s side will start against Wales.