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.