There are a few uncertain weeks ahead for Chelsea as it relates to some big-picture developments, but no matter how they all shake out, U.S. star Christian Pulisic figures to enter the club with a clear path to playing time on the Premier League and Champions League stages.
Chelsea is facing plenty of uncertainty in the coming weeks. There's the future of Eden Hazard, who is thought to be headed to Real Madrid after a year of public flirtation with the Spanish power. There's the future of Maurizio Sarri, the manager whose hot seat has constantly changed temperatures, despite guiding the club to a Champions League place and the Europa League final. Then there's the looming specter of a transfer ban, which would prohibit the club from signing players this summer and next winter, pending an appeal.
Amid all of this has come the arrival of Christian Pulisic, the 20-year-old American phenom who joined the Blues in a $73 million transfer in January before being loaned back to Borussia Dortmund for the rest of the season. At the time of the transfer, the move was met with some skepticism as it related to the player's chances for individual success. Chelsea was far from a shoo-in for a Champions League berth at that stage in the season, and its squad was flush with able-bodied players at his position.
Fast forward nearly five months, and even with all of the uncertainty clouding his new club, Pulisic's outlook is actually quite clear.
Achilles injuries to Callum Hudson-Odoi and Ruben Loftus-Cheek have, by unfortunate circumstance, removed two chief competitors for playing time. Hazard's departure is fully expected to take place after the Europa League final vs. Arsenal, which would open yet another chunk of minutes. The club has an army of players out on loan, but that figures to be its only source of player addition this summer. With Pedro and Willian both on the wrong side of 30, the runway is clear for takeoff.
It all adds up to Pulisic, with the expectations of the pricetag bestowed upon him, getting the opportunity to meet them. That isn't to say that it will be spoonfed, though. Pulisic's last season at Dortmund was uneven at best, with the player fighting recurrent muscle injuries and the ascent of Jadon Sancho to the tune of only making nine Bundesliga starts in his 20 appearances. At Chelsea, he'll have to win the favor of his new manager, whether it's Sarri or someone else. But that was always going to be the case, and some of the obstacles for doing so have now been removed.
"He is a world-class talent," U.S. and now-Chelsea teammate Matt Miazga said in March. "You saw at a young age what he can do in the Bundesliga. This season he has been injured a lot, so it has been difficult for him to kick on, but everyone knows the talent he possesses, he is a great player. He is very comfortable on the ball in tight space. You don't see that too often from American players, to have that level of technical ability and savviness in tight spaces to get in and out and create goalscoring opportunities.
"You can see from his play that he can create those goalscoring opportunities, and be a nuisance for a defender on the wing. He can isolate a defender and beat him one-on-one with speed and technique. Chelsea have added a great player, and I think he will add a lot, particularly beating players one-versus-one."
.@cpulisic_10 looks back on his challenging early days at @BlackYellow and reflects on his time at Dortmund in "Exploring Planet Fútbol: Germany."— Planet Fútbol (@si_soccer) May 16, 2019
Watch as @GrantWahl looks deeper into the @USMNT-@Bundesliga_EN connection with a FREE SI TV trial: https://t.co/FMCdRbJcsF pic.twitter.com/oXbIP6bbKw
Pulisic wasted little time in playing down the inevitable and immediate comparisons that will be made between him and Hazard while setting the goal of one-day reaching the Belgian's heights.
"Eden is a fantastic player, we all know that, and if I can get anywhere close to that I will be happy," Pulisic told the club's official site upon his introduction at Stamford Bridge on Tuesday. "He is a great player. I want to come in, be my own player, and do the best that I can do.
"I want to use my skills, my pace, my quickness and creativity to help, especially on the attacking end of things. Scoring goals and providing assists, that is what I am here to do. I want to make an impact and be a team guy who is going to give it everything."
Nothing is set in stone. The last two years were supposed to be breakout statistical years for Pulisic, and they didn't quite pan out that way. Such is the nature of being a young player at one of the world's best teams. But with a fresh start amid some helpful circumstances, his Premier League breakout could happen sooner rather than later.
"I was 15 when I moved to Dortmund," Pulisic said. "It was something I always wanted and it was just a matter of finding the right time. Now I just felt that it was the right step [to join Chelsea]. It was a great time in Dortmund but it was a feeling and I still have that. This is the biggest stage, it is incredible to come in and be in England and part of this league. If you want to prove yourself it is the greatest stage to be on."