Christian Pulisic’s Debut Season in Milan: A Promising Success

Although AC Milan’s 2023-24 season has been disappointing to the club’s standards, a bright spot has been Christian Pulisic, who has become a popular player both on and off the pitch for the team and its fans. 

AC Milan’s 3-3 draw against Genoa on May 5 summed up their season: Full of promise but ultimately succumbing to mistakes. The game was exciting but frustrating for Milan fans, as they saw their side rack up a third draw in five matches. Bitter rivals Inter have ran away with the scudetto, and while Milan are likely to finish in second, there’s a massive 18-point canyon between them and the top of the table.

The frustration was palpable at the San Siro, as AC Milan supporters in the Curva Sud protested during the match. Angry with the poor season by the club, the incensed fans displayed banners in their section against the AC Milan board, and left with 10 minutes to go in the match.

Amid all of that, a lanky American has been a shining light this season for the club and is in a strange way becoming a cult hero. Christian Pulisic is entering the prime of his career, and his first season at AC Milan has been a rousing success.

Across all competitions, Pulisic has 13 goals and nine assists in 47 games. Against Genoa, playing in the number 10 position with Rafael Leao on the left and Samuel Chukwueze on the right, the American was once again his most dangerous, providing electric runs, an assist, and hitting a shot off the post. Seeing Pulisic be so much involved in the match begged the question: Why had Stefano Piolo put Pulisic on the right wing for most of the season?

Down the middle, and with capable wingers, Pulisic plays his best brand of football.  He’d play the full 90 and earn high praise from the fans and the press alike.

A Household Milanese Name

christian pulisic san siro

Walking around the San Siro, one thing is for certain: The American is not just another squad player. Pulisic kits are one of the top featured items in the shopping trucks around the stadium. Younger Milan fans are typically wearing his jersey number, while the older demographic skews towards Leao.

In talking with a handful of Milan faithful at the stadium, there was, as you’d expect, a varied set of opinions.

Roberto Barrera, 34, has liked what he’s seen.

“I knew he was one of Chelsea’s key players in their Champions League season, and I thought Milan could really use his speed,” Barrera said. “He was one of the U.S. best players at the World Cup. The American factor is very secondary to (Milan fans). He’s a good player, and I am happy he has adapted so quickly.”

Christina, 21, said, “I rank him as our second-best player. He’s fast, humble, and with a drive to win. He has all the quality Milan needs.”

Long-time Milan fan Giuseppe Broli, 54, gave a more measured take on the American.

“Look, he’s got a lot of traits, I think he gets cold at times, he doesn’t rise to the occasion against big clubs — Inter, Juve, Roma,” Broli said.”That’s what Pulisic needs to do next season. For a first season it was successful. Next season if Leao leaves, he needs to step up.”

Gerardo Bautista, 35, said, “I love the way he cuts inside and is not afraid to take a shot. I think if he gets more chances like that he can score 15 goals next season for sure.”

The overall consensus is that Pulisic was a great pick up for Milan. While there is room to improve, he’s shown that he is more than just an American, he’s now an AC Milan player. End of story.

The Future

AC Milan is set for a reset. Pioli’s time as manager looks over. After a title-less season and an absence of wins in just about every important match during the season, the writing seems to be on the wall.

Still, for the first time a managerial change should not impact Pulisic’s standing on the team. After a 13-goal season, Pulisic should be an important player for any manager, especially considering Milan will need to spend wisely next season. A striker and possible winger to replace Leao should he leave is a must.

Also, Milan is suspect in defense and if Pulisic is a sure thing up top, then signing a capable defender should be a priority.

For Pulisic, his first season at AC Milan is a solid A. He will now enter a summer that will have the Copa America for the United States men’s national team, where he can continue to shine and elevate his stock at his club.

For the first time in a long time USMNT fans, pundits, and Pulisic himself don’t need to stress about Pulisic at the club level. While no one is indispensable, Pulisic has made himself an important part of a major club entering the prime of his career. What more can we ask for?

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