Christian Pulisic says Chelsea are “moving on” without former talisman Eden Hazard and insists he is “not trying to be like” the Real Madrid winger ahead of their Champions League semi-final clash.
Hazard left Stamford Bridge at the end of the 2018-19 season as Pulisic arrived, having agreed a move from Borussia Dortmund in January 2019.
Madrid paid a club-record €100million fee to sign Hazard, who won six major honours in seven years with Chelsea, including the Premier League twice and the Europa League twice.
The Belgium international scored 110 goals and provided 81 assists in all competitions for the Premier League side but has struggled to make the same impact in Spain, dogged by injury woes.
Hazard has just four goals and five assists in 37 games in Madrid colours, although he has been involved in a goal every 165 minutes this season, a vast improvement on one every 309 minutes in 2019-20.
Chelsea have not been serious title contenders in either season since Hazard’s departure but will now hope to dump their fit-again former superstar out of the Champions League.
Pulisic, wearing Hazard’s number 10 shirt and playing a similar role, has predictably been measured against the 30-year-old.
A strong end to 2019-20 saw Pulisic finish with nine Premier League goals, scoring 0.47 times per 90 minutes, comparable to Hazard’s rate of 0.49 when he netted 16 times in his final campaign in England.
Pulisic has found life a little more difficult this season, providing four goals (0.26 per 90), but he is determined to forge his own legacy.
“[Hazard] was an incredible player at this football club, of course,” Pulisic told reporters. “It’s someone that I’ve definitely looked up to.
“I’m not comparing myself to him in any way or trying to be like him, I’m my own player and I’m doing my best for this club.
“Obviously I can say he was a massive player for this club so it’s an honour to hear comparisons like that, but I still have a ways to go.
“He was an incredible player – he did a lot for this football club – and obviously we’re moving on without him.
“I never played with him, so I only know how it is without him, but I think we’re in a good place now, in the semi-final of the Champions League with a lot left to play for this season.
“I think this team definitely has a good situation at the moment. It’s looking positive.”
Like Hazard, Pulisic has had fitness issues, limiting his involvement.
“I feel very confident in my body and my fitness level at the moment,” he said. “I’ve played a string of games. I’ve never thought of myself as a player who’s injury-prone or anything.
“Obviously I’ve had a tough time the past year and a bit, but really it’s about taking care of my body and putting myself in the best position to be available for every single game. I feel good about that.”
One such problem – a hamstring blow in last season’s FA Cup final – kept Pulisic out of the second leg of a 7-1 aggregate Champions League defeat to Bayern Munich.
Chelsea are hoping this year’s campaign ends in more satisfactory fashion.
“I think the guys definitely gained from that, taking that experience from last season, being able to play in the Champions League – a lot of the guys for the first time,” Pulisic said.
“The next season you feel more prepared, a bit more confident, and ready to go for this year’s competition.
“I think that experience does help and I’m hoping we can take it into the game tomorrow.”