Opinion: Christian Pulisic proves no Dembele, no problem
The talk ahead of Borussia Dortmund's Bundesliga opener in Wolfsburg was all about one man, yet he wasn't even in the squad.
French starlet Ousmane Dembele, the subject of an 85 million euro ($100 million) bid from Barcelona, remained internally suspended after allegedly skipping training in an attempt to force a move to Catalonia.
By Saturday evening though, attention had switched to another Dortmund star – Christian Pulisic.
"How would you rate your goal?" the young American was asked after his first-half opener set BVB on their way to a 3-0 win. "Erm, maybe a two," he replied shyly, referring to the German grading system where one is highest and six is lowest. "But Marc's goal was better, he gets a one."
That was modest. Marc Bartra's strike to make it 2-0 was indeed special, the Spaniard curling the ball into the top corner from a narrow angle. But Pulisic's strike was no less impressive.
In one fluid movement at the end of a Dortmund counter-attack, he had expertly controlled Mario Götze's pass, nudged it slightly to the right to open up a gap and fired an unstoppable, low drive into the far corner. It was a striker's finish, worthy of a seasoned goalscorer.
On the hour mark, he produced the same piece of skill, only this time with a different product. Latching on to Lukas Picsczek's header down the right wing, Pulisic drove towards the penalty area. With the same quick feint, he found space to fire in a low cross which Aubameyang converted at the far post.
One goal, one assist, and BVB were top of the league.
In Pulisic and Dembele, Borussia Dortmund were in possession of two of Europe's hottest young prospects last season.
Dembele impressed with his silky first touch, eye-catching dribbles and scoring ability, finding the net 10 times and assisting 21 more as he instantly took to the Bundesliga and the Champions League.
He worked hard to iron out the inconsistencies in his game, heeding Thomas Tuchel's advice and developing into the sort of player that sporting director Michael Zorc feels is worth more than 85 million euros in the current market.
"We have a clear idea of what he is worth," Zorc told Sky before the Wolfsburg game, refusing to name a figure but insisting on "a very large sum by German standards but which reflects his sporting value."
Should Barcelona meet Zorc's evaluation, Dortmund will undoubtedly be losing a huge talent. But it won't be the end of the world. Christian Pulisic will still be tearing down Dortmund's wing and if keeps producing displays like he did in Wolfsburg, BVB won't miss Dembele.