Christian Pulisic has grown up seeing American footballers talked down.
So he hopes his move to Chelsea will give him the platform to set the record straight.
“That’s a big goal of mine,” Chelsea’s £58m new signing from Borussia Dortmund explains. “I want to try to prove to people that Americans can do it. I just want to make a name and represent my country, definitely. So that we gain even more respect.”
The mission is an ongoing one for Pulisic who first encountered the doubters following his move to Dortmund aged 15.
“I think at the beginning they think: ‘Who is this American trying to take my spot? he says. “You want to prove to them that you are good enough.”
Changing the perception of players from his country might be a considerable burden for Pulisic, 20, to take on. Such pressure and responsibility, though, is nothing new to the poster boy of American football, which should stand him in good stead.
He may end up being Chelsea’s biggest summer arrival if they fail to overturn their transfer ban and the player all eyes are on if – though more likely when — Eden Hazard moves on to Real Madrid.
He says: “Eden’s a fantastic player, we all know that. If I can get anywhere close to him, I’ll be more than happy. But I’m coming in to be my own player. I expect a lot from myself, for me that’s enough. Obviously, there’s pressure from outside — that’s to be expected.”
“I want to be successful, be part of this team and make an impact. They are my goals and to become the best player I can be.”
Pulisic’s transfer was announced in January though he remained in Germany for the rest of the season to help Dortmund finish as Bundesliga runners-up.
He has been in England this week starting to prepare for his new life at Chelsea so he is ready to hit the ground running after the Gold Cup which starts next month. His return to the country brings back fond memories of his time playing for non-league Brackley Town aged seven when his mother Kelley moved here as part of a teaching exchange in 2005. It was a season during which a young Pulisic really started to fall in love with the game.
He says: “Playing in these little tournaments, I’ll never forget. They were literally 12-minute halves and we would play an absurd amount of games in a short amount of time. I loved them. It was my favourite part. We had actually a really strong team. I remember winning a few tournaments and I won this one MVP trophy that I was so proud of, it was like my biggest accomplishment. When I was little if I did not get a trophy I was mad.”
Pulisic sampled his first taste of the Premier League back then too, with Stamford Bridge one of the grounds he visited with his dad and ‘number one’ inspiration, Mark, a former professional himself.
“I remember watching Drogba, Lampard and a few of those guys that stick out,” he recalls. “I want to say Drogba scored a penalty or something. That’s the only thing that stayed in my brain.”
Trying to help Europa League finalists Chelsea recapture those glory days is the task Pulisic has signed up for. He has already detected what he described as a ‘champion mentality at this club’ and the versatile attacker will add his own qualities to the mix, inspired by a few of his other idols.
Pulisic, who cited his skills, pace and creativity as his main qualities, says: “There are a few players I actually watched growing up, the main ones were Luis Figo and Ronaldinho, Zidane. Something about watching them play, it seemed so simple, so fun to them.”
“To me, I feel at my best when I’m enjoying it and having fun. If I can give off that kind of energy that’s awesome. If I can do that it will be great for the team.”