Christian Pulisic made a sensational statement with his perfect hat-trick at Burnley - and is now aiming to kick on with Chelsea after previously struggling to battle into Frank Lampard`s first-team plans.
The American was handed his first league start since August at Turf Moor on Saturday night and seized his chance, becoming Chelsea`s youngest-ever Premier League hat-trick scorer in the visitors` 4-2 win.
After months on the fringes and fighting for game time, the 21-year-old, £57.6m signing from Borussia Dortmund could not hide his delight after the full-time whistle.
It`s unreal, Pulisic told Sky Sports. What a day for me. I`m even happier with the result. I wish we could have got a clean sheet but in the end that`s a special day for me.
I`m happy with the progress I`ve made so far and I`m just going to keep going from here.
The first few months were definitely hard. I had a few starts early in the season but then I fell out a bit where I was just trying to get any minutes that I could to make an impact.
But in the last few weeks I was able to show that again, that I was helping the team coming in. I think they saw that and gave me a start today.
I didn`t think it was going to happen right away. Coming into a big club like this it takes time. I`m happy with the progress I`ve made so far and I`m just going to keep going from here.
- Christian Pulisic has scored his first Chelsea goal on his 10th appearance across all competitions for the club.
- Only Tammy Abraham (10) has been involved in more goals for Chelsea in all competitions this season than Christian Pulisic (8 - 3 goals and 5 assists).
- Christian Pulisic is the first American to score a PL brace since Clint Dempsey in April 2012 (Fulham vs Bolton).
- Christian Pulisic became Chelsea`s youngest hat-trick scorer in Premier League history (21y 38d), while he also became the first player to net a `perfect` league hat-trick for the Blues since Didier Drogba against Wigan in May 2010.
Where`s Pulisic been?
Pulisic`s superb hat-trick begs the question: why hasn`t he started more games for Chelsea?
The American has been on the bench for Chelsea`s last five Premier League games and was an unused substitute in September`s clashes with Wolves, Valencia and Liverpool.
He was then left out of Chelsea`s squad altogether for the Champions League trip to Lille at the start of October amid rumours Lampard was unhappy with his work at the club`s Cobham training base.
He had a week`s break this summer. He arrived for a big price and wanted to come straight back in but at the same time why am I going to throw him in? So I have to do it in the right way and get the best out of him. I`m delighted for him.
Frank Lampard on Pulisic
The attacker`s absence had drawn plenty of attention, with Chelsea supporters imploring Lampard to give Pulisic more game time on social media, while Pulisic himself publicly stated his frustration at missing out. Of course it is very frustrating, he told NBC Sports after watching his team-mates win 2-0 at home to Brighton. But I will continue to work my hardest because I want to play.
Pulisic indicated he had been told by Lampard to work harder in training. He said I have to improve myself in training and try to get back in the line-up, Pulisic added. It is not going to be easy here but it was never going to be easy.
It seems Lampard began to see the signs he was looking for from Pulisic after that exclusion in Lille, and the former Dortmund man has seized his opportunities off the bench in recent weeks, recording assists during short cameos against Southampton and Ajax, with his 25-minute spell in Amsterdam on Wednesday convincing his manager to play him from the start at Turf Moor.
Competition for places
Pulisic`s cause was not helped by the fact Chelsea have a selection of talented wide attackers at their disposal, with Callum Hudson-Odoi, Willian and Pedro vying for similar roles.
In the wide areas for Chelsea there`s more fighting for places than anywhere else in the team, said former Chelsea defender Frank Sinclair.
When he does come into the team he has to affect games, he has to keep something in the manager`s mind to get him picked next week - and with his perfect hat-trick he`s done well for himself tonight.
`A breakthrough moment`
Now the challenge is for Willian, Hudson-Odoi and Pedro to prove they deserve to start ahead of Pulisic.
For Sky Sports pundit Jamie Redknapp, Pulisic`s performance at Burnley will be the launchpad for him to become a key player for Lampard and Chelsea.
His enthusiasm, his desire to win the ball back... He`s played like, `I need to show something today`.
Jamie Redknapp on Pulisic
It`s not been easy. Whatever way you dress it up, the expectation of £50m and for him to come in straight away [was there], said Redknapp.
But today felt like a breakthrough moment for him. It`s not that easy when you come to a new league and as a young man. But you can see the confidence he`s got and the quality he possesses.
Now it`s onwards and upwards for him.