It was shortly after Chelsea’s disappointing defeat to Everton that Mark Pulisic took to Twitter and posted a not-exactly-subtle message regarding the future of his son, Christian. He wrote: “The sad thing is he loves the club, teammates, and London… puts his heart and soul into being a pro. Onwards and upwards my boy… big six months ahead.”
Christian had only played the final 22 minutes of the 1-0 defeat at Goodison Park – and had also been named among the substitutes in Chelsea’s six previous matches. So the frustration felt by Mark was somewhat understandable, although it was unwise to communicate it via social media.
The tweet was deleted not long after it was posted. Yet the genie was out of the bottle. And it was inevitable that Thomas Tuchel would face questions about the future of Chelsea’s American star in the days that followed. Fortunately, the German was ready for them.
“I am not concerned if a father says that a player does not love me,” he said with a smile ahead of the Blues’ Premier League meeting with Wolverhampton Wanderers last month. “I am not concerned about that. For sure not.
“It is a normal thing [that players are frustrated if they are on the bench]. Like every manager, we have our reasons to choose line-ups and we have our reasons to go for players in the starting XI. And you will never see at this level of competition any happy faces from players who are not selected.”
Pulisic did end Chelsea’s 2021/22 campaign by starting four of the last five matches, one of which was the FA Cup final against Liverpool at Wembley. Yet the 23-year-old’s total of 2,207 minutes was the lowest achieved during his three seasons at Stamford Bridge – and that was despite Pulisic being fit from November onwards.
Of course, I want to get more playing time,” the winger, who joined Chelsea from Borussia Dortmund in January 2019, said while away on international duty with the United States last week. “I want to be on the field as much as I can and be the sharpest I can be and fit as well.
“I think I still got a lot of games, but it’s always something that I’m working at and trying to be regular at club level as well to put myself in the best position to be fit when I come here with the national team.”
It’s the USMNT – not Chelsea – that often gets the best version of Pulisic. He appears to thrive under the responsibility placed upon him and regularly lives up to his ‘Captain America’ billing. In 49 games for his country, Pulisic has 21 goals and ten assists: no player has reached double digits in both categories faster for the U.S.A. men’s team.
Pulisic doesn’t have the same level of importance at Chelsea; he is simply one of many attacking options available to Tuchel. And that is unlikely to change going forward, especially with the Blues looking to strengthen their squad following the takeover by the consortium led by Todd Boehly.
It’s why Pulisic is at a career crossroads. He has two years left on his contract at Chelsea and there haven’t been talks to extend that as yet. “I’m feeling good, I’m happy here, and we’ve been successful, we’ve done some great things as a team while I’ve been here,” Pulisic told football.london in April. “It’s (contract talks) not something exactly I’m worried about right now but I’m feeling good.”
Pulisic’s place in the Chelsea squad could come under further threat if the Blues push forward with a move for Ousmane Dembele. Talks have been held with the Barcelona winger over a free transfer but so far, no contract has been agreed upon. However, that could quickly change.
Pulisic played with Dembele at Dortmund during the 2016/17 campaign. The pair shared a good on-pitch relationship and became close off it. “He was a good friend of mine,” the American said shortly after Dembele left for Barcelona in a deal worth up to £135million. “It’s always tough when you see a good player leave. It’s not easy.
“I think it was a dream of his to play for Barcelona and I’m not going to be unhappy for him. I’m definitely happy and I’m excited to see what he can do in his future, but like I said, it’s not always fun losing one of your best players.”
The American star was used predominantly off the right under Tuchel that season at Dortmund. Dembele, meanwhile, was largely deployed from the left or through the middle. The prospect of the duo linking up at Chelsea is a tantalising one but would require a change of shape from Tuchel, something he has suggested he is not in favour of doing.
Pulisic will almost certainly be part of the Chelsea squad that travels to the U.S. for pre-season this summer. But there is interest in his services, with AC Milan, Juventus and Liverpool reportedly monitoring his situation at Stamford Bridge. It’s why it’s difficult to predict what the future holds for the winger. But thing we do know – thanks to his father – is there are a big six months ahead.
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