Bundesliga | It's a dream young boys all over the world share. And it’s a dream that has come true for one young teenager from Pennsylvania, USA. At the tender age of 17, Christian Pulisic pulled on the famous black-and-yellow shirt of Borussia Dortmund and made his full Bundesliga debut.
Following in the footsteps of world-class players such as Mario Götze or Nuri Sahin, the classy midfielder became the latest player to roll off Dortmund’s renowned production line when he came on as second half substitute against FC Ingolstadt on Matchday 19.
The 81,000 fans that pack the Signal Iduna Park every home game got a first glimpse of a precocious talent that seems destined for greatness. "I dreamed about these moments when I was younger and of course I was nervous!" admitted Pulisic. "As I was about to enter the game the coach told me: 'Enjoy the experience, you can do it!' I have worked very hard for this day to come." Those nerves certainly weren’t showing as he immediately added fresh impetus to the Dortmund attack. "Christian displayed the courage he has in training during the game," said head coach Thomas Tuchel.
Schooled in the Dortmund way
As a key member of the Borussia Dortmund under-17 side that won two consecutive German championships, Pulisic has been on the radar for some time now. He’s now been training with the first team since the winter camp in Dubai, where he fitted in seamlessly with Dortmund’s star-studded squad. "He’s been performing extremely well in the youth teams for a long period of time," said Tuchel. "He had an opportunity to prove himself due to our small squad and one thing led to another. He played well in the friendlies in Dubai and earned a lot of respect. He realised that with the help of the team, he can make his mark at this level."
Pulisic certainly has the opportunity to learn from the very best as he now rubs shoulders with global stars such as Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, Shinji Kagawa, Marco Reus, Mats Hummels and Ilkay Gundogan. "All the players are really nice and help us a lot. It’s going very well," said the youngster somewhat modestly. He has already shown he can hold his own with two goals in mid-season friendlies.
The right mentors
In Tuchel, who describes the youngster as "always having a smile on his face", he has a coach who has a proven track record of developing young players at the highest level. And with Borussia Dortmund, he’s at a club that places great emphasis on producing its own talent. "It’s a huge compliment to our youth system that he can play here after only six months in the under-19s," said Hannes Wolf, his coach at youth level. His brief appearance against Ingolstadt isn’t the only proof that he can play his part for the eight-time German champions and, like Dortmund’s faithful, Tuchel is excited to see the American reach his full potential. "It gives me a lot of joy to have him around." Self-assured and technically gifted, Pulisic also has the humility required in the early stages of what promises to be an incredible career.
Pushing for a place
Although he is a vital component in Dortmund’s title-chasing under-19 side, no-one in the set-up would begrudge him the chance to spend more of his time with the first team. Pulisic himself is focussed on winning another championship at youth level, whilst at the same time seeing just where his first-team journey takes him. It’s a balancing act but he is aware younger players "have to have respect for the first-team players, but also fight for our place in the team, train hard and give 100% every day." With Dortmund still very much involved in the hunt for glory on three fronts this season, Thomas Tuchel will be counting on every player at his disposal in the run-in. He couldn’t have found a better time to unearth such a talent as Christian Pulisic.