Chelsea star Christian Pulisic has shed light on his troubled relationship with Thomas Tuchel and admitted he was left ‘dumbfounded’ after being dropped for the second leg of the Champions League semifinal.
The former Chelsea and Paris Saint-Germain manager was said to have told Pulisic he would be rested for a game at Fulham prior to the second leg of their semifinal vs. Real Madrid, only to ‘change his mind’ and opt for Kai Havertz in the European clash instead.
The American had scored in the first leg of the tie in Madrid, but had to put up with a substitute appearance in the return leg at Stamford Bridge, something he admits left him feeling angry at his now-former manager.
Christian Pulisic celebrated with Chelsea’s bench following his semifinal goal vs. Real Madrid
‘What happened before that game was hugely disappointing for me,’ Pulisic said in his upcoming autography ‘Christian Pulisic: My Journey So Far’, available for purchase on October 18.
‘I’d had a really good first leg performance and our following match was against Fulham in the league.
‘Tuchel told me that he was resting me for the second leg and as a result I didn’t play a single minute in the Fulham game.
‘Then on match day of the second semi, Tuchel tells me he’s changed his mind and he’s going with Kai [Havertz]. I honestly was dumbfounded and very disappointed.
The USMNT star has had a trying time at Chelsea and was denied a loan move in the window
‘I thought that I’d earned a start and, most importantly, he had assured me previously I was going to start.
‘So by the time he brought me on with about 25 minutes left, I was just so wound up.’
Chelsea won 2-0 in the second leg to progress to the final on a 3-1 aggregate, where a Kai Havertz goal sealed Champions League glory against Manchester City.
Pulisic attests that his decisive first leg goal would not have been possible had he acquiesced to the instructions of Tuchel in Madrid.
Ex-Chelsea boss Thomas Tuchel was relieved of his duties following a loss to Dinamo Zagreb
‘The untold story behind that goal is that when [Antonio] Rüdiger has the ball, I can see he’s looking to play it long over the top and I started my run to get in behind the Madrid backline,’ he revealed.
‘But as I take off on the run, I hear Thomas Tuchel yelling from the sideline, “Christian, stay in the pocket, don’t make the run!” But I just had the feeling I’d find the space and get on the end of the pass, so I continued the run.
‘I cut across the front of Nacho and behind [Raphaël] Varane. When I got the ball I thought I was going to have to shoot straight away, but then I realized that I had far more time than I thought I would have because Nacho had run to cover the goal line and Varane was more concerned about marking the arrival into the box of [Timo] Werner.
England international Mason Mount celebrates with Pulisic in the 2020/21 semifinal first leg
‘So I thought that I would create a better angle for myself by rounding Courtois and then being able to pick my spot.’
Despite winning the second most recent Champions League, Tuchel was fired on September 7 after a loss to Dinamo Zagreb.
Tuchel’s disconnect from his Chelsea players reached the extent that some of them wanted to avoid playing on the same side of the pitch as his dug-out.
Sportsmail revealed earlier this month, a number of Chelsea’s wide players did not like playing on their former coach’s side of the pitch.
Pulisic has been backed to make an impact again at Chelsea by USMNT coach Gregg Berhalter
The players were sick of Tuchel’s ‘constant barking and moaning’ – and took exception to how he groaned whenever they missed a tackle, cross, chance or didn’t cover quickly enough.
Meanwhile, Pulisic has not fared much better in his quest for game time since the German’s departure, playing just six minutes in Chelsea’s 1-1 draw with RB Salzburg last week.
Although, Pulisic did get an opportunity to stretch his legs last Saturday in a behind-closed-doors friendly against Brighton.
USMNT coach Gregg Berhalter sees an opening for Pulisic with Graham Potter now in charge at Chelsea ahead of November’s World Cup.
The American is looking for consistent playing time ahead of November’s World Cup in Qatar
‘I’m not happy a guy lost his job. But if this means more opportunity for Christian, then it’s positive because he’s a guy that’s proven that he can perform at that level,’ Berhalter told The Associated Press. ‘We’ll just have to wait and see.’
Even if Potter opts for attacking alternatives to Pulisic, it is highly unlikely it will threaten his involvement at this year’s tournament.
‘I’m sure there’s not going to be anything drastic, but there may be a couple of guys that pop up,’ Berhalter said of the squad he is planning to take to Qatar.
Pulisic’s next official opportunity on the pitch is October 1 when Chelsea make the short trip to play Crystal Palace at Selhurst Park.
‘Christian Pulisic: My Journey So Far’ can be preordered here.