Even with all his experience of dealing with media, Christian Pulisic could not resist almost giving the game away. It was mid-November and the USA squad were settling into their hotel before the friendly against England at Wembley when the conversation turned to whether he would one day return to the country where he first fell in love with football as a child.

“England, the Premier League, is a league where lots of kids dream of playing so there is no reason why maybe one day I won’t play here,” he said rather cryptically. Yet the double negative was fooling no one. By that stage, the £58m deal between Dortmund and Chelsea that will see the 20-year-old attacker loaned back to the Westfalenstadion for the rest of the season before he completes his move to the west London club in the summer was virtually agreed, with Pulisic signing a five-and-a-half year deal at Stamford Bridge on Wednesday.

In truth, however, this has been a transfer in the making ever since he and his agent, Rob Moore, opted to turn down Dortmund’s offer of a new contract at the end of last season. Previously the poster boy for the club’s ambitious new approach based on promoting players from its youth academy, Pulisic moved to Germany in 2015 after being scouted at a youth tournament the previous year and had made more than 70 appearances in the Bundesliga before he turned 20 in September.

But the emergence of the young England forward Jadon Sancho at the tail-end of last season and the signing of the Danish winger Jacob Bruun Larsen have seen him start only five of Dortmund’s 17 league matches this campaign. Indeed they have established a surprise six-point lead over Bayern Munich at the halfway stage, meaning the prospect of losing yet another prized asset to one of Europe’s wealthiest clubs was perhaps not the disaster it may once have been, despite his undoubted ability.

Dortmund have now recouped more than £220m since August 2017 from the sales of Pulisic, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Ousmane Dembélé and sporting director, Michael Zorc, certainly seemed philosophical about losing such a talented and marketable player. “It was always Christian’s dream to play in the Premier League,” he said. “That certainly has to do with his American background, and as a result we were unable to extend his contract.”

Christian Pulisic in under 60 seconds – video profile

Manchester United and Liverpool both expressed interest in signing him last summer, although it was Chelsea who pushed hardest given their attempt to provide more competition for the ageing Willian and Pedro who are both – like Eden Hazard – out of contract in the summer of 2020. An attempt to make Pulisic Maurizio Sarri’s first signing in July fell short when Dortmund demanded in excess of £70m but with his value decreasing due to his contract situation, they got their man.

Chelsea insist that paying the third-highest transfer fee in their history after Kepa Arrizabalaga and Álvaro Morata will not have any bearing on the future of Hazard despite his diminishing contract status, although Pulisic has shown he is capable of operating in a number of forward positions, including as a No10. His arrival also inevitably casts doubt over the future of Callum Hudson-Odoi despite Sarri’s insistence that the teenage forward has the ability to become of the best young players in Europe, with Bayern Munich reportedly having already had a £20m bid for him rejected. It will be intriguing to see whether he is tempted to follow the example of Sancho and England youth teammate Reiss Nelson – currently on loan at Hoffenheim from Arsenal – by heading to the Bundesliga to further his development.

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Pulisic will make the reverse journey having spent a year living in Oxfordshire village of Tackley and playing for Brackley Town’s youth team before returning to the US with his family at the age of eight. “I was nervous about coming to England at first, with ‘soccer’ and everything, but when I left at first I missed it a lot. I missed that culture,” he recalled in November. “Everyone liked to play soccer, everyone was there. And then I would come back to the US and no one really wanted to play soccer, so it was different.” Now he will get the chance to show he has been worth the wait.



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