What’s harder than playing against Wayne Rooney?
Being compared with the England legend as your nation’s poster boy.
For Christian Pulisic, he has to contend with both this week.
The 20-year-old Borussia Dortmund winger, who will line up for the USA against England at Wembley tonight, is widely regarded as the brightest talent ever to represent the USMNT.
No pressure then.
However, after coming through Dortmund’s academy as a man destined to be a star, Pulisic has navigated the harsh glare of football’s magnifying glass his whole career.
Now he is parting all the precious experience he picked up on the way to one of England’s most exciting starlets – Jadon Sancho.
Sancho has been a revelation since leaving Pep Guardiola’s cradle at Man City to try his luck in the Bundesliga.
It took him a while to settle into the team having moved before he was able to legally buy a beer in England, now we are seeing his true potential.
The 18-year-old has become the assist king of Europe, already setting up seven goals this term, and Pulisic explained that Dortmund and England could have the next big thing on their hands.
“The sky is the limit for a guy like him. A young player coming through you can see how much talent, how much skill he has and he’s done great for Dortmund this season, he’s doing really well and we want to continue to see those things,” Pulisic told Dream Team.
“I had a great first impression, a young guy with a lot of talent. He’s come in and he’s a bigger part of the team and he’s doing a great job.”
Despite only just breaking into his twenties Pulisic already sees himself as a person the teenage players can rely on to see them through the ride, especially his team-mate and big friend Sancho.
“I went through the exact same things and he knows that whenever he’s going through a tough time I’ve been through situations like that, he knows to talk to me and I’m there and I can talk to him so it’s a cool relationship that we have,” revealed the 20-year-old.
Sancho is in line to start for England at Wembley and Pulisic is excited to see both of them competing on the international level.
There has been a longstanding trepidation among English players to leave the nest of Premier League academies but the likes of Sancho and Reiss Nelson are following Pulisic’s example and it’s paying off handsomely.
“For guys like Jadon and Reiss what they are doing now in the Bundesliga is great for them and it’s a great platform to go in there, get minutes and perform well,” Pulisic said.
“I think they think they made the right decision just as I did going to Germany at the time, being able to play and having success at a young age.”
With seven of the US squad currently playing in Germany, the Bundesliga’s reputation as the go-to league for any youngster wanting to get minutes under their belts is extending worldwide.
Pulisic is firmly of the mindset that seeing this young US squad playing in a top European league will only serve the national team well.
Pulisic arrived in Germany as a highly-rated youngster but his development at the Westfalenstadion has been incredible.
He made the move at 16 and after setting alight the youth sides he was promoted to the first team within a year, soon the records began to fall.
His league debut came in January 2016 and by April he had become the Bundesliga’s youngest non-German scorer, a week later his goal against Stuttgart made him the youngest player to score twice in Germany’s top flight.
A year later he had provided an assist in a Champions League game against Real Madrid and put his name in the record books as Dortmund’s youngest ever scorer in the competition.
His form sparked interest from a number of English teams, with Liverpool having had an £11m bid rejected and Spurs being priced out of the transfer. Obviously.
So does the expectation for him to carry the US national team to the top of the international game weigh heavy on his shoulders?
“I really don’t put that pressure on myself, obviously a lot Americans do,” he said.
“All I can do is give my best, be a part of this team, be there for the young guys, obviously I am young too but just be there for them, help the team to grow.”
Some of Pulisic’s formative years were spent playing for Brackley Town, an English non-league side, where he developed a strong love of the game and of England’s football culture.
It inspired an intention to dip his toe into English football as a professional.
“The Premier League is a league where a lot of kids dream of playing,” Pulisic said, of his admiration of England’s top league. “So there is no reason why maybe one day I won’t play here.”
One way to get over the heartache of having to watch the 2018 World Cup from home could be to link-up with former boss Jurgen Klopp in the Premier League.
Better yet he can take his pick of the top six teams.
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