It was a long summer for Liverpool fans in terms of players being linked with moves to Anfield.
Such talk was always going to be in plentiful supply given the few months just gone were Jurgen Klopp’s fabled first off-season at Anfield, but the sheer quantity of potential signings debated on back pages and among supporters was off the scale. One theme, however, seemed a constant: talented, young Bundesliga-based stars.
There were, as we’ve alluded to, numerous links. But one of the more interesting stories came up as Sky Sports initiated their annual thawing of Jim White, in the form of Christian Pulisic. Indeed, the teenage Borussia Dortmund winger was, according to reports from Germany, the subject of a £10.5m bid as the transfer deadline approached, which was duly dismissed.
Since then, there have been suggestions that Liverpool are keeping a watchful eye on the now 18-year-old – while some are even speculating the rookie attacker is in ‘wait and see mode’ regarding signing a new contract at Signal Iduna Park.
But why the hype? After all, we are talking about a teenager with limited experience of senior football. Well, there is good reason for the clamour to have Pulisic for the coming years, with Archie Rhind-Tutt – A BT Sport reporter based in Germany – hailing him as a “special” talent:
“When you look at quite a lot of young players trying to make an impression, you find, particularly when looking at wide, attacking players, they can sometimes want to do it all themselves. I find that Pulisic is special in that he has the capability to do it all, but he seems to be able to pick the right time to play the pass, to go and try and beat the man or to arrive in the area at the right time to score. He has this almost innate sense of timing, which I think makes him a very special talent. He is exceedingly quick, if not as quick as his other young team-mate, Ousmane Dembele, but you still wouldn’t fancy being the defender up against him.”
A glowing endorsement, indeed. And the numbers do back up the buzz around the player.
Granted, there are limited figures to go on (those above are from 387 minutes of 2015/16 action in the Bundesliga), but in just four outings this season, Pulisic has netted once and laid on two assists, hinting at his composure around the 18-yard box and the exemplary decision making that characterises his game.
There are, of course, caveats to consider; his Champions League appearance came against Legia Warsaw (arguably one of the weakest sides in this year’s competition) and his goalscoring and assist-making Bundesliga 90 minutes was at home to Darmstadt – who avoided relegation to the second tier by two points in 2015/16 – in a 6-0 win, but the fact he’s getting minutes is an achievement in itself.
Pulisic couldn’t be in a much tougher environment in terms of breaking through to secure a regular first XI slot, with Dortmund having drafted in the likes of Mario Gotze, Andre Schurrle, Ousmane Dembele and Emre Mor over the summer to add to their already cluttered options in attacking midfield.
This has, perhaps, led Liverpool to believe there’s a window of opportunity in terms of luring Pulisic away with the promise of games, but that may not be the case:
“I don’t think he would necessarily become frustrated because the truth is if he did go to another club I don’t think the situation would be all that different, unless he takes a step down in terms of the club he’s playing at,” Archie Rhind-Tutt said when discussing Pulisic’s situation.
“There is still some development for him to go through because he’s not quite there yet – if he was, Thomas Tuchel would be picking him every week. But he’s being rotated, and even so, the fact Tuchel has played him in the last few games speaks for how far he’s progressed.
“I’ll put it on the record that I don’t think that he’s going to go to Liverpool in January – I don’t think that he’ll go to Liverpool next summer either. I think that he will end up staying at Borussia Dortmund for at least another year. But you look at the way Klopp’s side are playing at the moment and he would, theoretically, be a good fit.”
And a good fit he almost certainly would be. Although the problems of competition for places would remain present for Pulisic at Liverpool, he’s already causing a stir on the international scene, suggesting he has what it takes to compete with more experienced rivals through his sheer determination and quality.
— U.S. Soccer (@ussoccer) September 6, 2016
Indeed, respected American broadcaster and writer Colin Cowherd has dubbed Pulisic the “greatest potential American soccer player ever”. One could belittle ‘soccer’ Stateside, but the growing stature of the game on the other side of the Atlantic Ocean commands respect nowadays, and so too did the player in question’s showing during a 4-0 win over Trinidad and Tobago, in which he laid on two assists.
— Herd w/Colin Cowherd (@TheHerd) September 7, 2016
For now, a move to Liverpool centres around ‘ifs’ and ‘buts’, yet one thing remains a constant – Pulisic is a fiercely talented young footballer with a vast level of potential. Should Klopp be able to lure him to Anfield, he’ll have a superb talent on his hands.