The case of Callum Hudson-Odoi is a curious one. Chelsea have been waiting for years and years for a product of their youth academy to come through the ranks and become a first team star. Yet when it looks as though they finally have one, he seems to be on the brink of leaving.
John Terry is the last player to come through Chelsea’s academy and nail down a place in the Blues’ starting XI. Considering he made his debut for the club over 20 years ago in 1998, it’s a damning indictment. It’s also a poor reflection on the Roman Abramovich era, despite the investment at youth level and the success they’ve had.
Chelsea have won the FA Youth Cup in each of the last five seasons, and taking them to seven triumphs in the prestigious tournament in the last nine years. However, the academy has almost exclusively been used as a tool to make money from selling youngsters on, rather than offering a path to the first team.
There is, of course, the argument that if they’d had good enough players, then they would’ve made it. Yet there’s no doubt the managerial merry-go-round puts pressures on Chelsea bosses that don’t allow for spending time nurturing youth for the teams of tomorrow. Just look at Ruben Loftus-Cheek.
Perhaps this is why Hudson-Odoi feels it’s time to move one. The 18-year-old may look at Loftus-Cheek and also see his club splashing out £58m on Christian Pulisic, a player who operates in one of the forward positions Hudson-Odoi wants for himself. Eden Hazard’s future may be a constant source of speculation, but even without taking the Belgian into account, Willian and Pedro also stand in the youngster’s way.
It’s intriguing that Pulisic has been forced out of Borussia Dortmund due to Jadon Sancho’s emergence as one of Europe’s hottest prospects. Sancho had the bravery and confidence to leave the comfort of Manchester City, and take his chances in a new setup in a foreign country and an alien league. Chelsea have bought the man he usurped in Dortmund’s starting line-up.
Hudson-Odoi has no doubt seen – and maybe even spoken to – Sancho, and noted both his rise and recognition at international level. Bayern Munich certainly have, while also observing Reiss Nelson’s performances on loan at Hoffenheim from Arsenal. The Bundesliga giants see Hudson-Odoi as the next big thing to come out of England, and they want in.
The pressure’s been turned up on Chelsea with plenty of media attention, press briefings and three bids reportedly up to the value of £35m. Considering he’s only made 13 senior appearances, and just four in the Premier League, it’s an astonishing amount of money from a European powerhouse not known for splashing the cash.
Yet Chelsea are still standing firm in their resolve to keep Hudson-Odoi, despite the fact he only has 18 months remaining on his contract. Reports have suggested the player has no intention of signing a new contract, which would turn that £35m into a very attractive sum, even if it would pale into insignificance should Hudson-Odoi go on to realise his huge potential.
The Blues have shown down the years they aren’t afraid to sell players for the right price – think Oscar, Ramires, David Luiz, Juan Mata, Juan Cuadrado and Nathan Ake. Not to mention Kevin De Bruyne, Romelu Lukaku and Mohamed Salah. This perhaps gives extra credence to the belief that Hudson-Odoi will leave Chelsea in January, which he is currently 8/15 to do.
At the moment, you can get 21/10 on the talented forward staying at Chelsea. However, he’s odds-on to join Bayern Munich, at 11/18. It’s probably safe to discount a permanent move to any other club in the face of Bayern’s charm offensive. However, Derby are in the mix at 12/1 for a loan move for Hudson-Odoi, which could give him the minutes he wants in the short term, before a return to Chelsea or transfer in the summer if he still refuses to sign a new deal.