The first C in CFC usually stands for Chelsea. These days, it might as well stand for Callum, as in Callum Hudson-Odoi. The 18-year-old has dominated the news-cycle of the last two weeks — and rightly so — after rocketing into a starring role for the English national team.
But now he’s back in the cold harsh reality of club football, where headmaster Sarri rules the roost with an iron fist. But if he’s hard on the kid, it’s only because he cares deeply. Or so he says.
“I am not playing against Montenegro. In the qualification for the European Championships, the level is very low, it is not Premier League level [and] Callum Hudson-Odoi is ready to play against every opponent.
“[But] he needs to improve more and I want him to improve more. He has to stay with his feet on the floor, he has to work every day and improve his left [foot], improve in the defensive phase, his movement without the ball, and I want him to improve because the potential is really, really, very, very high.
“In this moment he is a very good player but he has the possibility to become more and I want him to be more. For Callum and also for me.”
-Maurizio Sarri; source: Chelsea FC
As incongruous as it might be to call him a “very good” player who’s “ready to play” against anyone, and then give him fewer minutes than just about any other first-team regular or rotational player, for Sarri, it’s all part of a plan. He’s repeatedly cautioned against putting too much of what he calls “pressure” on the youngster, while decrying the fact that he also has three other very good wingers.
Except of course none of those three are likely to be here beyond this season or next — Willian and Pedro are both over 30, and Hazard might be done with us for good — so the club’s future could very well depend on Hudson-Odoi, especially if the transfer ban is upheld immediately. Now that — that! — would indeed be a lot of pressure. All four of Chelsea’s current first-team wingers are entering the final twelve months of their contracts, but only Hudson-Odoi and Hazard should be high priority negotiations for potential extensions, and the latter’s case may be out of our control.
And sure, Sarri is under short-term pressure to deliver wins, although he’s only recently been willing to compromise on other issues in service of that aim, so is that really the primary pressure? He talks a lot about wanting to teach his own football, but if he wants to truly build a long-term project, shouldn’t he be focusing on the younger players rather than the ones who may not have long left at Chelsea or at the top levels of the game regardless?
Hudson-Odoi played more minutes for the national team over the course of four days than he had played in the Premier League all season. Granted, Montenegro and the Czech Republic are probably weaker than most teams in the league, but if they are too easy for the kid, shouldn’t we be looking to challenge him with the massive powerhouses of Cardiff City and Huddersfield and Fulham at the very least?
Don’t hold your breath.
To be fair, 20 minutes of international football is probably more than the academy minutes he's watched this season. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯— Chelsea Youth (@chelseayouth) March 29, 2019