Where would Callum Hudson-Odoi be better off?
By Joe Harker
This is all Jadon Sancho's fault. Since the young English talent decided he wasn't going to wait for a chance at Manchester City and joined Borussia Dortmund for the promise of first team football there has been much more interest in potential discarded gems of Premier League youth squads. There are whole generations of talented players who will likely never get a proper chance at their clubs who could flourish if only they were trusted enough. If the English clubs won't play their own youngsters then the German clubs will do it for them.
Sancho has been a revelation since his move to Dortmund. Signed for £8 million in 2017, the young winger would now cost at least ten times that to prise away from the German club. They took a chance on a young talent not getting chances and discovered a bona-fide top talent.
This is perhaps why current Bundesliga champions Bayern Munich are so interested in signing Callum Hudson-Odoi from Chelsea. They made a £35 million bid for the player, with sporting director Hasan Salihamidzic claiming he "has qualities that fit our team". Bayern desperately need new wingers to replace the aging Franck Ribery and Arjen Robben, Hudson-Odoi might be the perfect choice.
The transfer fee offered from Bayern would make Hudson-Odoi one of their most expensive signings ever. The club's record transfer fee for a player is €41 million spent on midfielder Corentin Tolisso, meaning that on the current exchange rate the Chelsea youngster would be their second most expensive player of all time. That is some show of faith in Hudson-Odoi.
Chelsea manager Maurizio Sarri has warned his young player not to move to Bayern Munich, insisting that his future is at Stamford Bridge. Sarri has said he is not in charge of transfers so the matter is not up to him whether Chelsea accept a bid from Bayern or not.
Despite assurances from the manager, Hudson-Odoi will reportedly not sign a new deal with Chelsea as he believes he will not be given the playing time asked for.
His only real chance for regular football in this current Chelsea squad is if Eden Hazard continues to play as a makeshift striker. Hazard and Hudson-Odoi both prefer to play on the left wing and the Belgian is the club's best player. If he plays as a striker to cover for Chelsea's lack of quality in the position then the young talent has a chance, otherwise he will find his path to the first team blocked. Besides, even in games where Hazard has played as a striker it has been Willian who has most often played on the left wing.
Martin Samuel of the Daily Mail writes that Hudson-Odoi will get nothing by being patient at Chelsea. The club has a terrible record for making talented youngsters regulars in the first team. In recent seasons their youth teams have been the best in England but players have not made it to the first team. John Terry was the last one to make it on a permanent basis, Ruben Loftus-Cheek might be the next, though he has only started nine of 33 Chelsea games this season.
Hudson-Odoi should not expect a place to be made for him, nor that his efforts to earn a place will be rewarded. If Bayern Munich are willing to make him their second most expensive player it can be assumed that they have intentions to play him and a plan for where he fits in their team. Too many young talents at Chelsea listened to a manager who told them to be patient, only for it to come to nothing.
Chelsea may want to keep Hudson-Odoi but they should realise this is a situation of their own making. They have gained a justified reputation as a club that sells their talented youngsters for profit rather than as a club that develops and improves them. If they want to hang onto players like Hudson-Odoi they will need to change that reputation by, shock horror, actually developing their young players and finding a spot for them in the first team.
Former Chelsea academy manager Jody Morris coached the club's youngsters to great success and summed up the problems facing Hudson-Odoi. Praising Tottenham Hotspur manager Mauricio Pochettino for giving chances to youth team players, he said: "There's opportunities to give minutes you just have to want to give them!
"Don't tell me about feeding into any agenda. I know what opportunities have been available for the last six years."
A succession of Chelsea managers have said it is difficult to give chances to younger players when there is such a pressure to win games but Bayern think Hudson-Odoi is good enough to warrant a bid of £35 million. Perhaps in the young winger's situation Chelsea was never the right club for him, they have one of the best players in the world playing in his preferred position, do we really expect them to drop Hazard for Hudson-Odoi? No, he would be better off moving on.