News Matches

'No more McDonald's' - USMNT hopeful Ledezma adapting to Europe as he aims to emulate Pulisic

17:00 GMT+3 22/07/2019
Richie Ledezma USMNT 03252019
The gifted youngster has had to make some changes to his eating pattern following his move to Europe, but is confident he'll make an impact at PSV

When Christian Pulisic left the United States to join Borussia Dortmund at the tender age of 16, he was by no means the first young American to try his luck abroad.

However, there is no denying that the success of the Chelsea winger has led to a bit of a trend.

In fact, the USA team that made it to the quarter-finals at the Under-20 World Cup back in June relied heavily on players plying their trade in Europe, with expats such as Timothy Weah, Sebastian Soto and Alex Mendez the standout performers.

Another member of that talented squad who has already made the jump to Europe is gifted midfielder Richard Ledezma.

The 18-year-old joined Eredivisie giants PSV at the start of 2019 and, even though an injury initially slowed him down somewhat, he is now slowly but surely getting used to his new surroundings.

“It wasn’t that difficult to make the move to Netherlands,” Ledezma told Goal and Voetbalzone.  

“I’ve been away from my family for almost two, three years, playing with Real Salt Lake in Utah. So we were living in dorms and I don’t think it’s much harder.” 

That’s not to say nothing’s changed at all for the youngster, though, as he’s had to accept a change to his diet. 

“PSV help me with my nutrition, with my food and how I eat. It’s the quantity of food you eat, I guess,” he added. 

“Because I came a little chubby, when I got here, I guess. They all called me ‘fatty’ and stuff, so I was like, cool, you know? So no more McDonald’s!” 

Having spent the first six months of his PSV career with the Under-19 team, he worked closely with legendary striker Ruud van Nistelrooy and the former Manchester United ace is impressed with Ledezma’s potential. 

“He’s making a difference in midfield with very quick-thinking passes, movement, can score a goal, play people in, he’s creating chances for the whole team,” the PSV U-19 coach stated. 

“So a very promising talent, I was really happy to work with him for now.” 

Ledezma himself, meanwhile, agrees with Van Nistelrooy’s assessment of his biggest strengths. 

“I play as a No.10 or No.8, although I can also play the No.6 role. But I’m more flashy as a player, so I like going forward more,” the USA U-20 star said.  

“I like to assist, to create goals. I'm not about scoring goals, but about assists, you know, that’s my thing." 

With that in mind, it’s no surprise that Ledezma idolises former Barcelona superstar Andres Iniesta, as well as his aforementioned compatriot Pulisic.  

“Role-models? Iniesta... He’s a big player obviously. I know it’s hard to compare, but I think I could do it one day. You have to aim high,” he added. 

“Pulisic is an inspiration too. I played Fortnite with him once, the video game. It was nice talking to him, giving me a little advice. I look up to him, he’s the number one when it comes to Americans playing soccer in Europe.” 

But whereas Pulisic has already earned himself a big-money move to Chelsea after making over 100 appearances for BVB, Ledezma still very much has his work cut out to prove himself in the European game. 

His contract with PSV is due to expire at the end of the 2019-20 campaign and he’s well aware of the importance of the season ahead, with the Eindhoven side having a unilateral option to extend his deal by two years. 

“My ambition here at PSV is to convince the club to trigger that option. So hopefully I get those two extra years and move up to the first team quickly. And then just experience first-team minutes. 

"My ideal route would be to get those two extra years, but to be playing with the first team and some games with Jong PSV obviously. And hopefully move higher and higher. 

“[I would] play in the first team for a few years and then maybe move to Spain.  

“Real Madrid are my favourite club in the world, but I don’t necessarily see myself playing there...”