Christian Pulisic Initially Treated Unfairly by Frank Lampard, Says Salzburg Boss

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Upon first arriving at Chelsea, Christian Pulisic was not initially part of the plans. He actually went an unused substitute for five straight games in the early part of last season. One would have thought the most expensive American footballer in history, and by a very wide margin ($73.1 million transfer fee), would have been called upon to hit the ground running instead. 

So what happened? According to RB Salzburg manager Jesse Marsch, manager Frank Lampard (who is also Chelsea’s all time leading scorer), simply didn’t rate the winger, just because he was an American. Marsch is claiming that it’s simple prejudice and negative stereotyping from the manager that obstructed Christian Pulisic in the early going.

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Marsch said to Extratime Radio.

“The perception in Europe, mostly, is that the American player is willing to run, willing to fight, has good mentality, but technically they’re not very gifted and tactically they’re not very aware and their experiences aren’t very big, but we’re seeing that change. We’re seeing more and more of these players develop themselves.”

“Even Frank Lampard, when I spoke to him in preseason a year ago now, I was talking to him about having Christian Pulisic, and he was kind of like: ‘Yeah, he’s got a lot to learn, so we’ll see how he does.’ I said to him: ‘Listen, he was at Dortmund, and they had a high level of tactical thinking, of playing, and he was very successful.’

“He was considered one of the best young players in Germany, and that’s in a group of players with Timo Werner, Kai Havertz, Joshua Kimmich, these kinds of players.”

“He was in a group with those players, and it’s not just because he was talented but it was because he understood the tactics and understood how to fit in the game and he was developing a real astute way of how to play.”

Pulisic didn’t exactly set the world on fire when he first arrived in the Prem, but eventually he impressed and earned his place in the team. Pulisic was acquired under the regime of Lampard’s predecessor, Maurizio Sarri in January of 2019, and the Italian was eventually sacked, at the end of the 2018/19 season in May.

When Lampard came up from Derby County to assume the Chelsea managerial position, he brought with him Mason Mount, an attacking midfielder/left winger player who brings to the table some of the same things that Pulisic does. The idea that sports is the ultimate meritocracy, pure capitalism in its most concentrated sense, is a myth, at times. Then again so is the general concept of meritocracy.

Sports are like every other job in life, who you know matters. If you’re the boss, you’re going to put in the subordinates you’ve already worked with and thus know that you can trust. As Sarri’s, but not Lampard’s guy, Pulisic had to first cut his teeth in cup competitions.

Marsch, who is American continued:

“I could see right away that Frank Lampard’s idea of Christian Pulisic was shaped a lot by the fact that he was American and not that his football education came a lot from what has happened in Germany. Since then, I think Lampard has learned that Pulisic is a lot better than he gave him credit for.

“Christian had to fight for that, which is the American quality, but he’s a damn good player. Same with Gio Reyna, same with Tyler Adams, same with Weston McKennie.”

Reyna seems to be following a similar career arc to Pulisic- a highly heralded American moving to BVB as a teen, and then establishing himself upon the world stage. Adams has asserted himself in the first team at Leipzig, where Marsch previously served as an assistant.

Meanwhile McKennie, arguably the second next big thing in U.S. Soccer behind Pulisic, got a big money move to a huge club in Juventus this summer, having starred at FC Schalke.

In other words, there seems to a be a place in the European big five leagues for Americans to prove themselves- the German Bundesliga.

Getting back to Pulisic, specifically, he has said on at least a couple different occasions, how he frustrated initially at Chelsea. And Lampard has often said Pulisic still has much to learn/room to grow. However, it wasn’t long until things made a 180 degree turn for the Hershey, Pennsylvania native and he made the most of his opportunities in the, let’s say, less-than-headliner fixtures.

The young American (apologies to David Bowie) first established himself by registering assists, and producing in an extremely productive and efficient manner. Then came his coming out party, a hat trick Burnley on October 26, 2019.

From there he became a first team regular until getting hurt, but in the restart period, after the long layoff of the shut down gave him time to recover, he set the league on fire.

Pulisic was one of the best players in the league during project restart, and had he stayed healthy last season, he might have won Premier League Young Player of the Season.

Paul M. Banks runs The Sports Bank, partnered with News NowBanks, the author of “No, I Can’t Get You Free Tickets: Lessons Learned From a Life in the Sports Media Industry,” has regularly appeared in WGNSports Illustrated, Chicago Tribune and SB Nation. Follow him on Twitter and Instagram.

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