We continue our top 100 players 21 and under with the World Class category. These players are grouped by talents who who are capable of one day challenging for the Ballon d’Or.
Name: Christian Pulisic
Club: Borussia Dortmund
Strengths: Exploiting space, dribbling at speed, experience
Weaknesses: End product, defensive contribution, decision making
Style: Somewhere between the gross hyperbole thrown out there by American fans and the cynical skepticism shown by non-Americans lies the true depiction of Christian Pulisic. Since the age of 17, the Borussia Dortmund midfielder has been plastered as the poster boy – emphasis of ‘boy’ is important to remember here – of soccer stateside. In their haste and desperation to market an elite talent of their own, Pulisic has long been thrust into the spotlight but he’s admirably dealt with that immense pressure. Naturally being away from home in Germany with Dortmund will have helped ease those expectations, but then that’s not exactly feasible when you play for one of the biggest sides in Europe. Still, his development in recent years has been enormous and taken within his age group, Pulisic is one of the outstanding young talents in European football. After all, there’s a reason Dortmund won’t even begin to negotiate any potential sale unless a starting bid of £60million-plus is lodged. That points to his high ceiling rather than what he produces right now because although he sits within our World Class category, it must not be missed there’s improvements to be made. Pulisic is a versatile forward but he’s been at his best when deployed on the right wing. Here, his explosive traits are best utilised. Dribbling is his best asset, but it’s through using his piercing pace and knocking the ball past a man, as opposed to close control. His work rate is phenomenal as well, last season he averaged 10.2km per game and for a player who has only just exited his teens, he has an enormous amount of games under his belt. End product is where the fault lines appear, though. He can steam into dangerous positions but often his decision making lets him down. More goals, and more assists will need to be added if he is to truly break through into the upper echelons of world football.
What’s been said about him:
Jurgen Klopp: “He’s a fantastic skilled boy, and it’s not a surprise to see. He’s a smart player, and unfortunately the USA needs more of these players. He alone cannot do it all.”
Landon Donovan: “He is carefree. He is confident, he is relaxed and he’s enjoying himself. I love it.”
Raphael Honigstein: “He is not a player who can do things alone, without the help of joined-up tactics and productive teammates. At least, not yet. But Pulisic is only 19 and his performances must be seen in the context of his age group.”
Forecast for 2019: Last season was a complete write-off for Dortmund after the exits of Ousmane Dembele and later Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang. Add in Peter Stoger’s arrival and his erratic attacking game and it was indeed a season of strife which was reflected in Pulisic’s performances. The contrast for his national team is stark, though, and for the USMNT Pulisic has always delivered. The target for the next 12 months is to stay fit make the right-wing berth at Dortmund his own. Despite rumours linking him to Manchester United, Chelsea and Liverpool, another season of refinement will do the American a world of good.
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