Borussia Dortmund's Christian Pulisic says he will be eternally grateful to the Bundesliga for giving him the chance to play professional football at such a young age.
The Bundesliga is famed the world over as a playground for football's brightest young talents, and Pulisic has proved no exception.
Since making his Bundesliga debut as a precocious 17-year-old in January 2016, the American - who will leave Dortmund at the end of the season and join Chelsea - has made over 100 competitive appearances for BVB and won 23 senior international caps for the USA.
"The Bundesliga gave me an incredible platform to start my career," Pulisic told media at Dortmund's winter training camp in Marbella, Spain on Saturday. "I've had an amazing five years in Germany and I'm very thankful for that, but I hope people can understand my decision [to leave Dortmund]. I'm really happy I can see out the season here and I'm just looking forward to giving my all for BVB in the months ahead."
'It could be a really special year'
Pulisic became the youngest American in history to win a major European trophy when he lifted the DFB Cup in 2017, but he could add another milestone to the collection if Bundesliga leaders Dortmund can hold off the challenge of defending champions Bayern Munich between now and May.
"We've got big goals and it could be a really special year for us," continued Pulisic, who is looking to become only the second American after Tom Dooley (Kaiserslautern, 1991) to win the Bundesliga. "We all have a special feeling that we can really achieve something. We have the right players, the right system. We're top of the table, but that counts for nothing. We need to stay focussed."
'I want to play as much as possible'
Pulisic has seen regular playing time limited by the emergence of England's Jadon Sancho in recent months, but still managed 11 Bundesliga appearances during the first half of the season, registering one goal and two assists. He has also helped BVB reach the DFB Cup third round and UEFA Champions League last 16.
"I want to play as much as possible whilst I'm still here," Pulisic said. "If we continue playing as a team, we can build on our good performances. Our performances so far have given us confidence, and we deserve to be in the position we are in right now. I'm really excited."
As excited as he was the day he first set foot in Germany, taking a bold step out of his comfort zone, but one he would take again. "It just made me so much stronger, not only as a player but as a person – I learned so much," he told ESPN. "Nothing was easy to come over to Europe and make this step, but I'm really happy that I did it."
Since Pulisic arrived, compatriots Weston McKennie, Tyler Adams and Josh Sargent have taken the same step. He feels this will only help them individually, and the USMNT as a collective in years to come. "I'm glad these guys are doing similar things and they can see I was able to come here and I was able to make it," Pulisic said. "For them to come and do the same thing, I'm really happy to see them.
"The [USMNT] is looking better and we have a lot of talent across the Bundesliga and other leagues in the world, and I think the fans should be excited."