MILAN – After struggling for playing time in his fourth season with Chelsea, Christian Pulisic finalized a four-year contract with U.S.-owned AC Milan on Thursday.
The 24-year-old American midfielder and forward, who joined Chelsea after four seasons with Borussia Dortmund, scored 26 goals in 145 games with the Blues and won a Champions League medal in 2021. But after netting 19 Premier League goals in his first three seasons he had just one in 2022-23 — none in 20 matches after Oct. 8. He made just two starts after Jan. 5.
“I haven’t gotten the opportunities I’ve wanted in recent years and haven’t reached the level that I want to be at, and this is a great opportunity for me to do that,” Pulisic said during an online news conference with U.S. media.
Considered the top American player with 25 goals in 60 international appearances, Pulisic was sidelined by a string of injuries and didn't live up to expectations at Chelsea. He left the London club with a year left on his contract. His deal with Milan includes a team option for 2027-28.
“It all just became very clear in the recent weeks that this was the spot for me,” he said. “I’m going to have a great opportunity to play, to hopefully make an impact within this team. It was really at the end of the day a no-brainer.”
Pulisic scored three goals at Burnley in October 2019, becoming the second American with a Premier League hat trick after Fulham's Clint Dempsey in 2012. He was the first American with a goal in an FA Cup, a 2-1 defeat to Arsenal in 2020.
But his playing time dwindled as Chelsea changed managers from Frank Lampard to Thomas Tuchel to Graham Potter and back to Lampard.
Pulisic said he spoke extensively with Milan coach Stefano Pioli.
“The manager really spelled out exactly how he sees me fitting in with this team and I did feel wanted at this club,” Pulisic said.
Milan is controlled by the American investment firm RedBird Capital Partners led by Gerry Cardinale, and baseball's New York Yankees are a minority investor. Milan is paying a transfer fee of 20 million euros ($22 million) for Pulisic, according to the Gazzetta dello Sport. That’s less than a third of what Chelsea paid Borussia Dortmund for Pulisic in 2019.
Pulisic is set to become the third American to play for the Rossoneri after defender Oguchi Onyewu, who appeared in one Champions League match for 31 minutes, and right back Sergiño Dest, who was on loan from Barcelona last season and didn't dress after Jan. 24.
Milan is a seven-time European champion and lost to city rival Inter in a Champions League semifinal last spring. The Rossoneri won the last of their 19 Serie A titles in 2022.
Getting playing time is key for Pulisic and other top U.S. players ahead of next year's Copa América, to be played in the United States, and a 2026 World Cup co-hosted by the U.S., Canada and Mexico.
“You want to be in top form,” he said. “Being here, I hope to find that again.”
Pulisic is the second Chelsea player to leave for Milan this month after Ruben Loftus-Cheek. Pulisic will also be reunited with former Chelsea teammates Olivier Giroud and Fikayo Tomori at Milan.
Pulisic will take Zlatan Ibrahimović's No. 11 shirt. The former Sweden international retired after last season.
After news of Pulisic’s impending transfer surfaced, Gazzetta featured him on its front page on Saturday with a headline that translated as “Captain America is coming” — next to a photomontage of Pulisic dressed as the superhero.
While Pulisic has captained the U.S. 16 times, Tyler Adams wore the armband during the World Cup.
Pulisic moved from Pennsylvania to Germany before his 16th birthday and picked up that language quickly. Now he'll concentrate on Italian.
“I'm going to take lessons,” he said. "I can understand Spanish quite well, so I'm really hoping to make that a focus and learn Italian as quick as I can.”