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Opinion: Chelsea and Dortmund profit from Pulisic transfer

James Thorogood
January 2, 2019

Borussia Dortmund have kicked off 2019 by executing another extraordinary move on the transfer chessboard. Christian Pulisic’s €64 million switch to Chelsea is a win-win for both parties, DW's James Thorogood writes.

Borussia Dortmund Christian Pulisic, Fußballspieler
Image: picture-alliance/AP Photo/F. Seco

What a way to start a year! Borussia Dortmund are not just laying down the marker at the top of the Bundesliga with their dynamic football — they're doing it with creative flair in the transfer market, as well. Selling Pulisic for €64 million ($72.5 million) is another incredible piece of business by BVB.

Read more:BVB's Christian Pulisic completes Chelsea switch

Dortmund masters of their own fate

Breaking it down to the German outfit's being a "selling club" is too rudimentary, as it suggests that they are powerless — they aren't. BVB have forged a reputation for being one of the best breeding grounds for young talent in the world and, in keeping with that status, are aware that they won't always be able to hold on to their prized assets.

Especially a 20-year-old rising star, who is being cast as the leader of the next generation of the US Men's National Team (USMNT). Pulisic was always going to leave for pastures new at some point. It may have come earlier than desired, but Dortmund have once again demonstrated their propensity for taking control of their inevitable fate and being willing to drop the hammer having negotiated an above-value deal. 

Sporting director Michael Zorc deserves immense credit - his eye for the profit margin can only perhaps only be bettered by Premier League side Southampton in recent years. Shinji Kagawa started the trend and, while Robert Lewandowski remains the outlier, Mats Hummels, Ilkay Gündogan, Ousmane Dembele and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang have all been high-profile mark-ups over the last three years.

Zorc's choice of words when describing Pulisic's €64m price tag as an "extraordinary lucrative offer”, was almost a boastful admission in the face of overvaluation for a player whose contract was up in 18 months.

"It was always Pulisic's dream to play in the Premier League, probably because of his American upbringing," Zorc said in a club statement. "Because of that, it was not possible for us to renew his contract." 

Dortmund have used Chelsea's impending potential transfer ban to cash in, retain a valuable asset for their title bid and prevent speculation from unsettling a thriving side. Pulisic, meanwhile, adds another record to his list, becoming the most expensive US international ever. In the Bundesliga, only Kevin De Bruyne and Dembele have commanded bigger sales.

Fresh start for Pulisic?

There's no point baulking at Pulisic's price just on account of his performances this season. Last season he was worth more and come the end of his Chelsea tenure there's every chance the fee will look like a bargain.

Fussball Champions League Spieltag 5 Gruppe A l BVB Dortmund vs FC Brügge
Pulisic has chipped in with three goals and four assists in 18 games in all competitions for Dortmund this season.Image: Reuters/L. Kuegeler

The American hasn't been able to deliver on the same scale as he did in his breakthrough campaign, but there's no reason to hit the panic button on his prospects. Maintaining his trajectory was always going to be a challenge and unfortunately he's been the victim of niggly injuries and even a lack of confidence, in a season where BVB stars have regularly stolen headlines. 

Let's not forget that the 20-year-old came into this season on the back of a summer of spent coping with disappointment and wondering ‘what if‘? What if the USMNT had made it to the 2018 World Cup in Russia? What if he had been able to deliver the all-important equaliser against Trinidad and Tobago in qualifying?

Since the USA's failure to qualify for the summer's showpiece event, his "biggest dream”, the youngster has taken it upon himself to heap even more pressure on his shoulders. "I don't want to be perceived as the future, or a boy, or a kid. I want to be seen as the present. I want to be known as a leader,” the Hershey-native said on ussoccer.com's RISING series. 

While one dream remains unrealized, another has taken on life in the form a move to Chelsea. It may seem strange to say given his young age, but pastures new could just breathe new life into a talented player, who whilst maintaining high standards, has plateaued.

Pulisic admitted he "wouldn't be where I am today without Dortmund", and a dip in form or not, it's a relationship that has had give and take from both sides. The only thing that can sweeten the win-win deal for both parties: A Bundesliga trophy parting gift.

Christian Pulisic - where it all began

James Thorogood Sports reporter and editor, host of Project FußballJMThorogood