Frank Lampard has denied he was slow to trust Christian Pulisic after the RB Salzburg coach, Jesse Marsch, said Chelsea’s manager doubted the American winger because of his nationality.
Marsch was left with the feeling that Lampard was unsure about the technical level of American players after speaking to him when Chelsea faced Salzburg in pre-season in 2019. Pulisic had just completed his £58m move from Borussia Dortmund and although he scored twice in that game he often found himself on the sidelines at the start of last season.
Lampard had told Marsch, one of the most successful American managers working in Europe, that Pulisic had “a lot to learn” during their chat. Yet history suggests that giving the USA captain time to settle in England was the right call. Pulisic has gone on to become one of Chelsea’s most important players and Lampard, who had a spell in Major League Soccer with New York City FC at the end of his playing career, suggested Marsch had misinterpreted their conversation.
“I was surprised that Jesse had managed to read my mind as well as he thought he did,” Lampard said. “He’s recounted the conversation wrong. We played Salzburg and Christian scored two goals. Jesse came up to me and said what a talented player Christian was, which I knew. I spoke about the fact that equally it was so exciting to see how he would develop for us. Jesse managed to put it across slightly differently.
“I played in America for 18 months and I would never underestimate the desire that [US] football players have to understand the technical side of the game. When you have that, which Christian has, and you have incredible talent, it was never in doubt for me.”
Lampard was protective of Pulisic, who scored in Chelsea’s 4-0 win against Krasnodar in the Champions League on Wednesday. “I coached in the Premier League and played in it for nearly 20 years,” he said. “I understand the rigours of it. It’s clearly the toughest league to come and play as a young player. What Christian did was have a breakthrough season. I never doubted him.”