Shortly after being officially introduced as a member of seven-time European champion AC Milan, United States men’s national team star Christian Pulisic spoke for the first time at length about his blockbuster transfer from Chelsea.
“It’s such a big step in my career,” Pulisic, who helped the Blues win the Champions League and a FIFA Club World Cup during his four-year stay with the English Premier League team, told a small group of mostly American reporters on a conference call Thursday. “I had some great memories, of course, at Chelsea, ones that I’ll take with me for the rest of my life. But now I’m really excited to create new ones.”
He’s excited about the opportunity to start every week. Pulisic was signed by Chelsea when Maurizio Sarri was the manager there. But by the time the now 24-year-old arrived in London in the summer of 2019, Sarri was long gone. That put Pulisic in the position of trying to win over coaches who inherited him, with mixed results. Last season under Graham Potter and then caretaker boss Frank Lampard, the Pulisic played fewer minutes in the Prem than in any of his previous three seasons.
In Milan, Pulisic will work under a manager who really wanted him in Stefano Pioli. “It’s a great feeling, one that I have really never had in my professional career,” he said. “The manager really spelled out exactly how he sees me fitting in with his team, and I did feel wanted at this club. When a club like Milan wants you, I think it was an easy decision.”
One made easier still, he said, by the fact that his former Chelsea teammates Olivier Giroud, Ruben Loftus-Cheek and Fikayo Tomori and are already there.
“They’ve said only good things about the club, and they said, ‘We can use a player like you and think that you can help the team a lot,'” Pulisic said. “I’m obviously close with some of those guys, so it’s really a perfect opportunity for me.”
[Why AC Milan is the perfect club for Christian Pulisic]
That doesn’t mean that Pulisic will simply be handed a central role. He will have to perform in Milan, which reached the semifinals of the Champions League last season. He’ll also have to stay healthy – something he was unable to do for long stretches of his tenure at Stamford Bridge. It’s not like Serie A is easy, either.
“There’s still a lot to learn about the league,” Pulisic said, adding that he’s committed to learning Italian as quickly as possible. “It’s going to present a lot of different challenges. I think for me, it’s about my creativity, my directness and wanting to go and help the team to score goals and create chances, because that’s my main thing. And I think that’s where I can help here.”
After his up and down run at Chelsea, he knows he’s got plenty to prove. To his doubters, sure. But also to himself. “I haven’t gotten the opportunities that I wanted in recent years and haven’t reached the level that I want to be at,” he said. “This is the right next step for me.”
It’s also a boon to the USMNT. Despite not always featuring regularly with Chelsea, Pulisic was usually at the top of his game at the international level. It wasn’t an ideal situation, though. The best thing for the USMNT is to have all of its best players logging big minutes with top clubs — one reason Pulisic said that U.S. coach Gregg Berhalter is supportive of the move.
“I have spoken with Gregg,” Pulisic said. “He’s very excited.”
He’s not alone.
“This is a massive, legendary club with a lot of history,” said Pulisic, who began his pro career with German club Borussia Dortmund. “These different experiences can only help a player grow and when I’m when I’m growing as a player and improving, I think that only feeds into the national team as well.”
Doug McIntyre is a soccer writer for FOX Sports. Before joining FOX Sports in 2021, he was a staff writer with ESPN and Yahoo Sports, and he has covered United States men’s and women’s national teams at multiple FIFA World Cups. Follow him on Twitter at @ByDougMcIntyre.
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