Chelsea believe they have stolen a march on their Premier League rivals by clinching the £57.6 million signing of Christian Pulisic and loaning him back to Borussia Dortmund for the rest of the season.
The size of the fee for a player who would have had only 12 months remaining on his contract at the end of the season has raised eyebrows in Germany. But Chelsea are confident the deal will prove to be a significant coup after avoiding the threat of a summer auction.
It also means Pulisic will move to Stamford Bridge regardless of whether Chelsea are hit with a transfer ban by Fifa, which has been investigating a number of their transfers.
Pulisic had long been linked with Liverpool, while Tottenham Hotspur showed an interest in the winger last summer. Arsenal's head of recruitment Sven Mislintat, who worked as a scout for Dortmund, is also a big fan of the American.
It is believed the uncertainty at Manchester United also prompted Chelsea to act immediately. With no permanent manager and looking at restructuring their recruitment set-up, United were in no state to rival the Stamford Bridge club for Pulisic this month.
Chelsea felt that could have changed when United hired a full-time successor to Jose Mourinho in the summer. The early signing also ensures Chelsea will not be backed into a corner if Eden Hazard leaves at the end of the season.
While Pulisic has not been signed as a replacement, and there is genuine hope the 20-year-old will play in the same team as Hazard, his signing puts Chelsea in a stronger position.
Pulisic lived in England 14 years ago, when his family moved to Northamptonshire so his father, Mark, could complete part of his Uefa 'A' coaching badge at Lilleshall. During that time, Pulisic played for a boys' team connected to Brackley Town, currently in the sixth tier of English football. Having moved back to America and then joined Dortmund as a 16-year-old in 2015, Pulisic made his breakthrough in 2016, quickly establishing a reputation for being one of the most exciting talents in world football.
He made 12 appearances, scoring two goals in his first campaign and then played 43 and 42 games in the following two seasons.
Pulisic has not been a guaranteed starter this term, often trading places with England international Jadon Sancho, but that can be partly attributed to minor injuries and his refusal to sign a new Dortmund contract.
Having signed a five-and-a-half-year contract with Chelsea, Pulisic said: "It's a privilege to have signed for such a legendary club."
Chelsea are still trying to sign a striker during this month's transfer window, with Alvaro Morata expected to leave on loan if they do. The club are also looking for a like-for-like midfield replacement for Cesc Fabregas, who is hoping team up with former Arsenal team-mate Thierry Henry at Monaco on a free transfer.
(© Daily Telegraph, London)