Christian Pulisic on battling team-mate Jadon Sancho at Wembley
‘The sky is the limit for a guy like him’: Christian Pulisic opens up on battling team-mate Jadon Sancho at Wembley, Dortmund’s sensational start to the season and carrying American dreams as the poster boy of their new era
- Dortmund stars Christian Pulisic and Jadon Sancho are set to go head-to-head
- England welcome the United States in a friendly on Thursday night at Wembley
- Pulisic admits he has been impressed with Sancho’s sublime form in Germany
- He claims being the poster boy for the US team has very little effect on him
- READ: Pulisic also admitted he could make ‘dream’ move to the Premier League
Christian Pulisic and Jadon Sancho usually spend their time together hurtling down either flank for Borussia Dortmund, combining to cause chaos for the best defenders Germany has to offer.
The duo, with a combined age of 38, have helped Lucien Favre’s rejuvenated team to an exceptional start this season that has left them four points clear at the top of the Bundesliga.
But on Thursday night at Wembley they will be jostling for supremacy on opposite sides. Pulisic arrives as the poster boy for the United States, a team in transition following their humiliating failure to reach the World Cup, while Sancho is set for his first England start.
Christian Pulisic pictured in training with the United States at Wembley on Wednesday
The American star is set to go toe-to-toe with Borussia Dortmund team-mate Jadon Sancho
The opportunity represents another step on Sancho’s meteoric rise this season after a year spent adjusting to life in Germany following his move from Manchester City in 2017. The rapid progress he has made is no surprise to Pulisic though.
‘The sky is the limit for a guy like him,’ Pulisic said on Wednesday. ‘A young player coming through, and you can see how much talent and how much skill he has. He has done great for Dortmund so far and this season he is doing really well. We want to continue to see those things. Hopefully he will continue on this path.
‘It is normal (settling in), it took me a while as well. My first impressions of him are he is a young guy with a lot of talent. He is being a bigger part of the team now and doing a great job with that.
‘We talked about it and possibly playing against each other is going to be really cool. Obviously competing with him every day in training and being good friends off the field and now getting the chance to play on at international level is going to be a fun experience.’
Pulisic made the move to Germany at the age of 16 and instantly impressed, making just a handful of youth team appearances before being called up to the first team. His journey allows him to offer advice to Sancho, which he is more than willing to share.
‘I went through the exact same things as him,’ the 20-year-old added. ‘Whenever he is going through a tough time he knows I have been through situations like that. He knows to talk to me. I am there and I can talk to him. It’s a cool relationship that we have.’
Both Sancho and Pulisic have been crucial to Dortmund’s impressive start to the season
Lucien Favre’s rejuvenated team are currently four points clear at the top of the Bundesliga
There is no doubt a tussle between two of the world’s hottest prospects will cause a stir but the American is adamant there is more to Thursday night’s game than just Sancho vs Pulisic.
He added: ‘I don’t see it like that. We both want to perform for our countries and we both want to win. We are both competitive guys. We both want to do as well as we can.’
Sancho is an example of what could await young English talents if they make the plunge and move abroad in search of more game time. Arsenal’s Reiss Nelson joined him in Germany this summer after he completed a loan move to Hoffenheim and has also caught the eye.
Six players in the American squad at Wembley on Thursday night are also playing in the Bundesliga, which has become something of a hotbed for young talent to thrive.
‘Obviously guys like Jadon and Reiss what they are doing is great for them and it’s a great platform for them to, as a young player especially, go in, get minutes and perform well,’ said Pulisic.
‘They would probably think they’ve made the right decision just as I did going to Germany at the time and being able to play and have success at a young age.
‘It’s great to see guys like that (Americans) coming over to Germany and wanting to play professional soccer at the highest level. That is why I did it, it was always my dream and it’s cool to see others following that path and to be there for those guys whenever they need advice too.’
Sancho’s first England start on Thursday night is the latest step in his incredible rise
Pulisic made the move to Germany at the age of 16 and instantly impressed at Dortmund
Pulisic was forced to sit on the bench as Favre’s new look Dortmund side won a pulsating clash with Bayern Munich last weekend. Make no mistake though, he remains a vital cog in the team and was at the centre of their dismantling of Atletico Madrid in the Champions League last month.
Dortmund have finally relocated the intensity and quality that was missing as they drifted back into the chasing pack behind Bayern in recent years. Pulisic insists maintaining current standards is the only way they can win a first domestic title for seven years.
‘It is going to take consistency and I think that’s why we have been so successful this year. Last year, we had a great start but we couldn’t keep that up,’ he said.
‘Now, going forward we feel really good. We beat Bayern. We take it one game at a time and we will do as well as we can. We hope that means winning the league and we are 100 per cent going for it.’
While Pulisic is forced to battle for every minute in the team with Dortmund on the training pitch, he is the key component of this American squad that are finding their feet once again.
They needed only a draw against Trinidad and Tobago 13 months ago to be virtually certain of securing at least a play-off spot for the World Cup in Russia. However a crushing defeat, paired with Panama’s late win over Costa Rica, left the US without a place at the tournament for the first time in 32 years. Pulisic played in that disastrous campaign but remains front and centre of their rebirth as a team full of youth and admits excitement levels are high.
‘Yes, we had a tough year and I think what we have done now with the young players is good,’ he added. ‘We have this really good schedule coming now and we are playing with really good young players with good competition coming up is the best thing for our guys. To continue to learn we need to get these experiences and that’s important.
Pulisic was part of the American team that failed to qualify for the 2018 World Cup in Russia
He admits he doesn’t concern himself with the pressures of being the Americans’ figurehead
‘Of course watching the first few games (of the World Cup) it hit me the most. I wanted to be there so bad but really it just gave me motivation to want to be there even more.
‘We’re really excited moving forward, we can’t look back at what has happened over the past year and now we can just look forward and grow with these young faces, continue to gain experience and matches are the best way to do it so we’re excited.’
Pulisic spent a year in England playing for Brackley Town as a child, a spell that he has attributed to putting him on the path to a career in football. Despite the weight on his still very young shoulders, he freely admits he doesn’t concern himself with the pressures of being the Americans’ figurehead.
‘It is not difficult for me I just don’t deal with it very much. I am not constantly checking articles, what people are saying, Twitter. I am not looking at any of that stuff I am focused on what I need to do most of the year, that means being focused on Dortmund so when I come to camp I do the same things, focus myself here so it is not difficult for me to not really worry about the outside noise.
‘I would not really say I am good at it. It is it like I’m shutting down “I can’t read that, I can’t read this”. It is about learning to hear that and stuff like that and not letting it affect you. Knowing what your job is and who you should be listening to and how you can get better.
‘I really don’t put that pressure on myself. Obviously a lot of Americans do. All I can do is give my best, be a part of this team, be there for the young guys. I mean I’m young too, but just be there for them and help this team to grow and help these guys out.’
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