It wasn't supposed to end this way for Christian Pulisic and Chelsea. He arrived from Borussia Dortmund as a young prodigy with a hefty pricetag, a game-changing American with the ability to shift the balance on the field. And for years, he showed glimpses of that ability, but only glimpses. Injuries, form, managerial changes, whatever... Pulisic's time at Chelsea never got close to taking off in the way all involved hoped.
Now, despite earning Champions League and Club World Cup winners medals in Chelsea blue, he leaves with his reputation somewhat lessened. Gone is the leeway given to young stars; Pulisic is now a fully-fledged senior player graded on the same scale as everyone else. He won't be given a failing grade for his time in London, but he certainly didn't pass with flying colors.
He leaves this summer in a move that felt like a long time coming. As he heads to Milan, Pulisic has become Serie A's latest Chelsea reclamation project, the latest in a long line of players to depart Stamford Bridge in search of stardom elsewhere.
What makes Pulisic's move different from, say, Mohamed Salah's or Kevin De Bruyne's, is that the American has not taken a step back to take two steps forward. He has stayed amongst the elite, joining a club that will be competing at an even higher level than Chelsea next season. One could even argue he's fallen upwards by leaving one megaclub for one even more historic.
Make no mistake, though, he won't get this chance again. Very rarely does a player command this type of move after such a turbulent few years. He has seemingly stumbled into an ideal situation, at least on the field, as he begins the most vital three-year stretch of his career.
Pulisic has secured his place among the elite once again, but the challenge is now to show that he deserves to remain there as he enters his prime.
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