Christian Pulisic: Why Liverpool and Barcelona are lining up for the young saviour of American soccer

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#GenerationNext, our regular series on the most exciting young talents in world football, continues now on Just Football with a look at American wonderkid Christian Pulisic. Who is he? And why are some of Europe’s biggest clubs already circling?

Despite the rapid rise of the US Men’s National Team in the last 20 years, many feel that the need for a true superstar of the sport in America remains. But does it? America’s next superstar might be here already, playing in Germany.

Players such as Freddy Adu, Juan Agudelo, Landon Donovan and Jozy Altidore have all been touted as the next big thing in USA. Perhaps Donovan aside, none really hit the heights. But now it seems that the hopes of the nation rest on a new name: Christian Pulisic.

Just 18 years old, Pulisic is gaining valuable experience at Borussia Dortmund. Despite his inexperience, he is already making an impressive contribution to Thomas Tuchel’s exciting young squad, both domestically in the Bundesliga and in the Champions League.

Profile

Name: Christian Pulisic
Date of Birth: September 18th, 1998
Age: 18
Position: Attacking Midfielder
Nationality: American

Who is Christian Pulisic?

“I really think that Pulisic is going to be the best player the United States has ever produced” – Thomas Rongen, former coach.

Born and raised in Pennsylvania, Pulisic began his playing career in the States. He impressed for his local side and the US youth teams before moving to Germany at the age of 15 with his father. He followed in the footsteps of Landon Donovan, who also moved to the Bundesliga at a young age.

Pulisic signed up with Borussia Dortmund, who placed him in their youth teams early on. Here, the youngster made a huge impression, scoring 10 goals and grabbing eight assists in Dortmund’s U17 and U19 teams. It was form that quickly caught the eye of the club’s new manager Tuchel.

SEE ALSO: Borussia Dortmund’s Thomas Tuchel: Europe’s newest hipster manager

The midfielder was fast-tracked into Borussia Dortmund’s first team squad after the 2015/16 season’s winter break.

The teenager was then given his Bundesliga debut, off the bench against Ingolstadt on January 30th 2016. Although Pulisic was competing against the likes of Marco Reus, Henrikh Mkhitaryan and Shinji Kagawa for a place in the team, Tuchel was quick to praise the American:

“At the moment it is a great pleasure to have him here. He is a very integral part [of the squad]…how we will continue to deal with his talent, I do not know yet.”

The manager was true to his word. Pulisic became integral to Dortmund and made a strong impact in the remainder of the season. The American played in high profile games against Liverpool in the Europa League, and local rivals Schalke domestically. His performance against the latter caught the eye of Sporting Director, Michael Zorc, who said afterwards:

“He really made the game move, especially in the first 30 minutes. You could not catch him because of his speed and agility.”

Such pace and agility helped Pulisic score two goals in his first nine Bundesliga appearances. He even broke records – his first league goal against Hamburg saw him become the youngest non-German to score in Bundesliga history.

SEE ALSO: The #JF70 2017: Top 10 best Bundesliga young talents to watch in 2016/17

Taking the league by storm, Pulisic’s rapid rise continued with a call up to the senior US national team and a debut. Another record fell – his debut aged just 17 made him the youngest American to play in a World Cup qualifier. He also won subsequent caps that came in the Copa America.

Style of play

One of the many reasons why Christian Pulisic excites American fans is his style of play, which differs from previous young talents. Richie Williams coached Pulisic for the US U17’s and gave an insight into what makes him stand out:

“I think for a small and wiry guy he is still athletic. He has agility and moves well and is quick. He’s going to put the other team under pressure, he’s going to put them on their heels because he’s going to be aggressive.”

A modern playmaker, Pulisic has been utilised as both a number 10 and in a wide position for Borussia Dortmund. His versatility has seen him play both on the left and right when selected out wide. Standing at just 5 foot 8 inches, Pulisic relies on his technical quality, which includes the use of both feet and strong dribbling skills.

His ability to penetrate a defence and make runs into the area are perfect attributes for a Thomas Tuchel side, enabling him to get into goal scoring positions regularly. The dynamism and creativity provided by Pulisic added to the power and athleticism that United States is renowned for makes for a very promising combination.

Another Freddy Adu?

Any time a young footballer gains headlines in America, the name Freddy Adu gets invoked. The one-time wonderkid serves as a harsh reminder to the pitfalls of early stardom. For so long America has been desperate for a superstar of the sport playing at the highest level, and early signs suggest that Christian Pulisic has the credentials to succeed where Adu, and others, failed.

SEE ALSO: Freddie Adu and other football wonderkids who never made it

Technically gifted, perhaps Pulisic’s greatest strength is his mentality, which has impressed both club and country team-mates. US defender Geoff Cameron spoke highly of the maturity Pulisic has despite being so young:

“When you live in Europe and you have that experience and you’re living on your own for a long time, it changes you as a person. You’re surviving on your own and it makes you grow up a little bit faster.”

What next?

His mentality – as outlined by Cameron – combined with his technical ability has unsurprisingly made other clubs take notice of the midfielder’s potential. Just last summer Liverpool were linked with a big money move. Of course, their manager Jürgen Klopp, formerly at Dortmund himself, is fully aware of the American’s talent.

Pulisic has continued to impress in 2016/17, making a great impact off the bench against Real Madrid in a 2-2 draw, and salvaging a point as Dortmund came from 3-1 down to draw 3-3 at Ingolstadt.

Plenty of scouts are watching with interest. Barcelona are said to be monitoring developments, but for now it seems that the attacking football played by Borussia Dortmund suits Pulisic perfectly.

Despite all the attention, Christian Pulisic still refers to himself as a “just a normal kid”. What is clear is that a host of managers, coaches and football clubs think he is just a bit special.

Head here for more Generation Next young player profiles. And don’t forget to follow us on Twitter @JustFootball and Facebook for all the latest football news, features and analysis of the best young players in world football.

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