When Christian Pulisic walked through the doors at Stamford Bridge to be unveiled as Chelsea's newest star, it was hard not to dream. Hell, not to dream would've been irrationally pessimistic.
Pulisic broke through with Borussia Dortmund and was among the world's brightest talents. American men's soccer finally produced a player who could be world-class one day. We finally had our own wunderkind.
Chelsea snapped him up for a transfer fee north of $70 million, far and away the most expensive American player of all time. It was more than triple the second-most opulent fee paid for a USMNT star at the time and remains more than double the current No. 2 (Brenden Aaronson's $30 million move to Leeds United this summer).
Pulisic's time at Chelsea didn't quite live up to expectations, even if it wasn't a failure as he played a role in the Blues winning a Champions League title. That reads like a bad riddle, but it's true. The lofty hopes weren't consistently met, even if the image of him winning a Champions League was a dream.
Injuries, managerial turmoil, general Chelsea instability, playing out of position, or not being played at all left his encouraging debut season (9 goals, 6 assists in the Premier League) as easily his best season in London. In four years, he'll have never played more than 1,735 minutes in a league season and never more than 420 minutes in a European campaign. He's started 56 of a potential 138 league matches (40 percent) at the time of writing.
Pulisic's time at Chelsea increasingly looks to be ending this summer, an impending break palatable for all parties.
The Boy Wonder has been in our collective lives for so long that it's easy to forget he's still only 24. His debut with the national team came at the beginning of the infamous failed qualifying cycle for World Cup 2018. He's just about the only good thing to come from those dark days and was one of just two players from that fateful evening in Trinidad and Tobago to make the 2022 World Cup squad.
Pulisic still has his prime ahead of him. Pulisic is still a star.
If he is to transfer from Chelsea this summer as I (and many others in the know) expect, it's a crucial move. There will be no shortage of suitors, either. Despite durability concerns and the inconsistent time in England, his talent is still huge.
Where could Pulisic realistically land next?
First, the soccer quadrant of the equation.
A move to Italian soccer would suit Pulisic well. It's less physical than the Premier League, perhaps aiding in increased durability. A move to AC Milan, specifically, is my favorite landing spot.
AC Milan won Serie A last year and they have a ton of talent in the first team, but not as much competition to worry about for playing time compared to Chelsea. Rafael Leão has had a star turn in Milan and Pulisic has thrived on either flank in his career. He'd be a first-choice starter.
Milan has most consistently utilized a 4-2-3-1 formation, but they'll be room for Pulisic even when they shift to three at the back. The Rossoneri have been employing two attacking midfielders underneath a center forward rather than two strikers and a No. 10. He'd fit there, too.
After a three-game losing streak risked swerving their season off the road, Milan has gotten control of the wheel and is a good bet to qualify for the Champions League, another key ingredient to lure a player of Pulisic's quality (and keep their best players so they remain title challengers in the near future). It's a huge, storied club.
Now, the financials.