Sports News of Friday, 30 November 2018
Before Thursday’s clash with PAOK, Callum Hudson-Odoi had played just 35 minutes for the Chelsea first team this season. But after completing 90 minutes at Stamford Bridge, the England youth international is unlikely to have to wait long for his next appearance.
Played in by Cesc Fabregas as the clock ticked past the hour mark at Stamford Bridge, 18-year-old Hudson-Odoi cut inside onto his right foot and curled an effort past Alexandros Paschalakis at the goalkeeper’s near post.
It was a well-deserved first goal in senior football for the England youth international, who would later go onto record an assist for Alvaro Morata with a searching cross from the right.
And while it is Olivier Giroud who may have earned himself a place in Sarri’s line-up for Sunday’s derby with Fulham following his two first-half goals – taking his recent tally to five in five games for club and country – this may well become a night that is remembered most for Hudson-Odoi’s impact.
Like many of those who won the Under-17 World Cup alongside him for the Three Lions in 2017, Hudson-Odoi is being coveted by some of the biggest teams in world football.
Real Madrid, Barcelona, Bayern Munich, Juventus and Villarreal have all registered an interest in a player who lead the Blues to an unprecedented quadruple at youth level last season, and with his contract set to run down in June 2020, it is no surprise that the west London outfit are looking to tie him down to a fresh five-year deal.
That offer of a new contract was made in the summer with the proviso that Sarri would offer him more minutes, particularly after an impressive pre-season while more established names were recovering following the World Cup.
But the former Napoli’s boss persistence in naming the likes of Willian and Pedro in his team for cup games rather than give Hudson-Odoi the chance to shine has lead the youngster to consider finding pastures new, particularly with international team-mates Jadon Sancho and Reiss Nelson thriving abroad.
If to compound matters, Emile Smith Rowe – a player who Hudson-Odoi outperformed in the 2018 FA Youth Cup final – has been thriving in the Europa League, scoring twice as the Gunners eased through to the knockout stages.
After a spell of being patient and training with the first team, Hudson-Odoi finally got himself back into limelight and he spoke of his surprise to even be selected against the Greek league leaders.
“We got early goals which gave us the confidence that we needed, we are back to normal,” he told BT Sport. “I couldn’t believe I got the opportunity to start. Every time I got the ball I wanted to do my stuff. I couldn’t believe it when I scored, to see the crowd jumping was a dream.
“I will keep striving to play for my club. Hopefully, more opportunities will come. I am always eager to play but it is the coach’s decision. I will celebrate tonight with my family.”
There is no doubt that Hudson-Odoi is good enough to play in the group stages of Europe’s secondary competition, so it is no surprise that Sarri’s decision to consistently leave him on the bench has frustrated the Chelsea faithful.
Hazard, Willian and Pedro are certainly difficult players to overthrow in Hudson-Odoi’s position, but it remains clear that he has not been used nearly enough given his undoubted talent.
Last month a fellow academy graduate, Ruben Loftus-Cheek, used a home match in the Europa League to prove his worth to Sarri. Now Hudson-Odoi may have done the same. For Chelsea’s sake let’s hope the manager was taking notice, or he may not have him in his squad for much longer.