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BILD is relatively reliable, but still, the soccer rumor churn is full of half-reported scraps and insane speculation, so who knows whether or not this is a likely or even possible outcome. But it does raise an interesting question: How quickly should Christian Pulisic, the wonderteen, push for first team minutes at the possible expense of slow, deliberate development?
Pulisic is 17 years old, he made 12 first appearances, and scored two goals last season in his debut campaign with Borussia Dortmund’s first team. He’s somewhere between a No. 10 and an out-and-out winger, and coach Thomas Tuchel clearly trusts him. He slid seamlessly into the Dortmund attack when called upon and scored some well-worked goals.
However, Borussia Dortmund are one of the best and most ambitious clubs in the world, and they spent their summer aggressively cobbling together one of the most fearsome groups of attacking midfielders on the planet. Pulisic played behind Marco Reus, Henrikh Mkhitaryan, and Shinji Kagawa last season, and his team added even more attacking talent to their squad this year.
Mkhitaryan has left for Manchester United, but Dortmund brought in Andre Schurrle, Emre Mor, Ousmane Dembele, and Mario Gotze, all of whom more or less approximate Pulisic’s role. Since he’s the youngest of the bunch and Dortmund payed very little for him, there won’t be pressure to play Pulisic early or often, and while he’ll probably find minutes here and there in one of the many competitions Dortmund is part of this season, his role is smaller than what it was last year.
Which means that the Stoke bid represents a choice between more playing time right now on a lesser side, or patience with the developmental process towards a hypothetical role as a first teamer with a Champions League regular. For Dortmund, €20 million is a shitload of money for teenager who’s made 12 appearances. Despite their obvious stake in crafting Pulisic into a better player, they have a chance (if the reports are true) to get a massive return on someone who is redundant to their short term plans.
Stoke would be spending the most money ever for an American player on the assumption that he will continue developing into an elite player. Twenty million Euros is a lot of coin to spend on a 17-year-old, especially when the team already has accomplished wingers Xherdan Shaqiri and Bojan. However, he would play for Stoke and would be expected to be an integral attacking cog for the club throughout the EPL season.
It’s unclear whether or not that would be better for Pulisic, the player, to move to Stoke. As much as I have advocated for Pulisic’s legitimacy as God’s honest truth, I would rather he spend his second full-time season as a first team player learning the ropes, picking up starts and substitute appearances here and there, and getting a taste of the Champions League than slugging it out in the EPL. He may be ready for the EPL, and he may even thrive there. But if that’s true today, it will be even truer after two more years in the upper reaches of Dortmund’s famed academy. Pulisic is a big chip for Dortmund, and while they could cash in on him now, his potential to be the biggest American soccer star of his generation ensures that any future transfer fee will be an inflated one, especially if he moves to England.
Pulisic has been engulfed by hype all year and he’s largely delivered. He is a legitimate part of one of the best teams in Europe, a key USMNT player, and a dynamic attacker, but above all, he’s a teenager. Let Pulisic take his time.