This time last year, Chelsea appeared to be hurtling straight into another massive mistake with regards to a young player. It was nothing new for a club built for and obsessed with winning, but this one felt especially egregious.
Callum Hudson-Odoi’s talent was immediate and obvious for all to see. There were no questions about physicality or readiness a la Josh McEachran or Mohamed Salah, no questions about best position a la Ruben Loftus-Cheek or Nathan Aké, no questions about mentality and ambition, a la Kevin De Bruyne — just to name a few. Bayern Munich were very publicly willing and ready to pay outrageous amounts to make him one of the most expensive teenagers of all time, after all.
Fortunately, Chelsea put up enough road blocks and then-manager Maurizio Sarri eventually saw the light as well, which were enough to keep Hudson-Odoi through January, although his long-term future still hung in the balance. An Achilles injury in the spring proved somewhat of a blessing in disguise, putting the breaks on both his emergence under Sarri as well as the runaway train of the Bayern transfer talk, giving just enough time for Frank Lampard to swoop in and say the right things to the 18-year-old in the summer.
“[It took just] one [conversation]. He just said he believed in me, that he wants me to play for him and things will go well for me at this club. It was exciting times that a new manager was coming in and you know that he will play at least some of the youth boys as well.”
And play some of the youth boys as well he has, indeed. Lampard demands a lot but rewards fairly, and that’s just fine by Callum, who should be in line for some minutes with England during the current international break after earning his recall for the first time since the injury.
“He is hard on me but it’s in a good way because he wants me to keep getting better. The manager wants to win and he wants to win in the best way. He wants you to get better and that’s why he will tell you in the way he does.”
Hudson-Odoi’s apparent flip-flopping throughout 2019 didn’t sit quite right with everyone of course, but all’s well that ends well.
“Definitely. I’m really happy that I stayed at Chelsea. I’ve been there all my life, I’ve loved the club from day one. Obviously, the academy boys who have come through are playing loads of games and it’s just a good bond.
“I was more thinking about it [signing for Bayern]. I wasn’t saying I was definitely going to sign or I wasn’t going to sign. It was just because of times last year where I felt a bit of frustration or times when I wanted to play more because I love the game.
“There were times where I was thinking: ‘What happens if I do that?’ But at the same time, I thought: ‘Chelsea is the club where I’ve been and this is where I want to become a key player.’ Doing it at the club where I’ve been is a massive thing. Does it feel more special? Definitely.”
-Callum Hudson-Odoi; source: Guardian
Special times a-brewing, yessir!