Few times in football history has a club undergone as sudden and drastic a change as Chelsea under Todd Boehly’s ownership over the past year and a bit.
Of the 14 players that started their Champions League final victory over Manchester City in 2021, just three players remain at Stamford Bridge.
Chelsea’s co-owner doesn’t strike you as the type of guy that shares a lot in common with the Blues cult hero Pat Nevin, but they may share an affinity for Orange Juice’s ‘Rip It Up and Start Again’. Former winger turned DJ Nevin appreciates the effortless hooks of songwriter Edwyn Collins; American investor Boehly evidently sees something in the words.
What line follows the titular line of that stone cold indie-pop classic?
“I hope to God you’re not as dumb as you make out.”
Having taken a sledgehammer to the squad he inherited, there’s inevitably been lots of attention on the near billion spent on the shiny new signings. There’s been less said about those they’re replacing.
Christian Pulisic arrived at Chelsea as America’s great hope. He showed plenty of promise in his first year under Frank Lampard, but regular opportunities diminished over time and he was fully on the periphery by the time Lampard returned in a firefighting operation in the spring.
Premier League starts fell year on year – Nineteen. Eighteen. Thirteen. Eight. The 24-year-old winger is not the only player that has struggled with the lack of stability at Stamford Bridge in recent years, and last year’s meltdown made it abundantly clear what he needed was a proper home.
It’s very early days, but Pulisic might have found just that at AC Milan. Stefano Pioli threw him straight into the starting XI for the Rossoneri’s 2023-24 opener at Bologna and he repaid the faith by leathering an absolute golazo just 20 minutes into his competitive debut.
Christian Pulisic with an absolute screamer on his Serie A debut 🔥🇺🇸 pic.twitter.com/ABxtBO8KmR
— Planet Football (@planetfutebol) August 21, 2023
This is a player with a point to prove.
You could see it from the way he single-mindedly darted at the opposition defence, playing it into former Chelsea team-mate Olivier Giroud before receiving it back on the edge of the box.
You could see it from the way he wheeled away to celebrate, embracing old pals Ruben Loftus-Cheek and Fikayo Tomori.
“It wasn’t necessarily one moment where it hit move, just over time and how the season went, with a year left on my contract, it felt like the right time to move for my career. At the end of the day, this move felt like a no-brainer,” Pulisic told Men in Blazers.
“I spoke with the directors, I was also on a call with the coach. You want to get a good feel and feel like you’re wanted.
“Everyone at the club made me feel like that, they gave me a really good feeling before even setting foot here.
“I spoke to all of the ex-Chelsea players, they told me the ins and outs of the club and honestly they all spoke really highly of it.
“They all made it sound like it was a great opportunity for me. I trusted them and they’ve helped so much with the transition as well.”
Chelsea are the club that never gave Kevin De Bruyne and Mohamed Salah sufficient opportunities and were made to regret it. This is very much a new era at Stamford Bridge but that doesn’t mean they’re immune to making the same old mistakes.
Pulisic looks at home with Milan already. He’d surely love nothing more than to show Chelsea what they’re missing.