Chelsea boss Thomas Tuchel said Christian Pulisic remains part of his plans despite a lack of game-time and joked the USMNT international could even be a future captain of the club.

Pulisic has started just one game since Tuchel succeeded Frank Lampard as head coach in January, making a further seven substitute appearances in Premier League and Champions League appearances totalling only 137 minutes.

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Sources have told ESPN that Pulisic is keen to fight for his place at Stamford Bridge but ahead of Saturday’s Premier League clash with Leeds United, Tuchel was asked whether he would stand in the 22-year-old’s way if he requested a move in search of more regular action this summer.

“[There are] a lot of ifs in your question,” Tuchel replied. “If he starts tomorrow, if he does brilliantly and if he starts again against Atletico [Madrid next Wednesday] and if he scores again two goals, maybe he is the captain next year! I don’t know.

“I know what you mean but this is too far ahead. We have so many games and he is in my plans. He is an important player and has the potential to be decisive for us from the bench and as a beginner.

“Is it necessary that he can prove it? Yes. So, this is my job and his job is to be ready like everybody else and when comes the moment, you have to be ready. This is what you sign up for in a club like Chelsea. There is no difference between Christian and everybody else.”

Tuchel has a prior working relationship with Pulisic from their time together at Borussia Dortmund, handing him his first start aged 17. The former Paris Saint-Germain boss said Pulisic was doing everything possible behind the scenes to force his way into the team.

“When you sign and play for Chelsea, it is part of the job description as a player to be patient and impatient at the same time,” he said. “Impatient because all of my players are competitors, all of them want to play every single minute and this is what they show every day: the hunger, the desire. This is what Christian shows.

“At the same time, when you are not selected by the coach, you have to be patient to not lose confidence, keep on going and be ready at any time because it can happen any time. In the beginning, he was a bit unlucky because we knew how much of an impact he can have from the bench and we used this power and strength from him.

“When it was possible for him to start, around the Sheffield [United] and Barnsley games, one game he was unavailable, the other came a bit too soon. The cup game against Barnsley was a difficult game for him. So it was not too easy but in the end it is the credit for the players always and the quality from the players that shine on the pitch.

“If you turn it around, it is also the duty of the players to show up and really earn that they play and this is what Christian does. It can happen any minute, any game. At some point, it is just this. I have nothing to complain [about]. I feel in the last days very positive, doing the best out of his situation. This is what he can do.”

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