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Could Chelsea’s moves for Sterling and Raphinha be a good sign for Hudson-Odoi?

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The upcoming preseason was always going to be big for Callum Hudson-Odoi.

Through no fault of his own, the 2021-22 season ended disappointingly for him. The injury limited the England international to just nine appearances after the turn of the year, the last of which was at Luton in the FA Cup in March.

When it comes to cementing a place in the first team of one of the Premier League’s most competitive sides, any length of absence isn’t ideal, but it’s especially difficult in the case of someone like Hudson-Odoi, who has been struggling. with other attacking players to get first-team minutes for Chelsea since being promoted from the academy in 2018.

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However, it’s only a matter of time before you have even more competition to worry about.

Chelsea are expected to complete a deal soon to sign Raheem Sterling from Manchester City and are also optimistic about buying Raphinha from Leeds United. They have also been interested in Barcelona’s Ousmane Dembele, who is available as a free agent but would cost a fortune in salary.

One could argue, on the one hand, that the interest in those players actually offers Hudson-Odoi some cause for encouragement.

Looking for open players suggests that coach Thomas Tuchel is considering a change in formation, one that better suits the 21-year-old’s style of play. The obvious downside is that Chelsea won’t be spending more than £100m on fees and wages to bench newcomers, and that would mean Hudson-Odoi would be used more as a supporting role.

It is too early to make any decisions about his future, but he is one of nine players in the squad to have reached that uncomfortable stage for any club of only having a two-year contract. This is the juncture where both the team and the individual begin to consider whether or not they want an extension.

Significantly, Chelsea’s desire to sign Sterling, Raphinha and/or Dembele has also sent a message to other clubs about the potential availability of Hudson-Odoi. the athletic he understands that some major clubs, in the Premier League and abroad, are already making inquiries.

While Hudson-Odoi hasn’t come close to reaching his potential since turning down Bayern Munich in 2019, he still has made 126 appearances for Chelsea before his 22nd birthday. That’s not such a bad record for an academy product.

But this is the period where he really needs to play more regularly to fully become the player he can be. Being a secondary figure is not beneficial to anyone.

Tuchel is believed to hold Hudson-Odoi highly and there have recently been talks about the situation between his representatives and new Chelsea co-owner Todd Boehly, although it was also part of a get-to-know-you exercise.

However, there is a section of the Chelsea fan base that is not sold on Hudson-Odoi. His progress has not been helped by the severe Achilles tendon injury he sustained three years ago and the severity of the setback may have been underestimated.

But while there is certainly room for improvement where Hudson-Odoi is concerned, it should not be forgotten that Chelsea’s best run last season coincided with him regularly starting in his favored position on the left of their attack.

There have been too many occasions in which Tuchel has chosen him as a winger or on the right flank.

However, in the period between October and November, Hudson-Odoi featured in 10 of Chelsea’s 11 games and was in the First XI in nine of them, predominantly on the left. They won eight of the 10 games Hudson-Odoi played in, drawing the other two. He scored twice and contributed a couple of assists, with the goals coming in impressive wins over Norwich and Juventus (wins 7-0 and 4-0 respectively).

Although his contribution in the second half of the season waned due to physical problems, there were still some eye-opening moments, most memorably his sublime cross for Romelu Lukaku to score against Palmeiras in February’s Club World Cup final. That was the second grand final in which Tuchel started it; he also played in the Super Cup victory over Villarreal in August.

But Tuchel, rightly so, given the qualities of Manchester City and Liverpool, is a difficult man to please. Even as Hudson-Odoi was showing signs of consistency, the Chelsea manager made it clear that he was still not entirely convinced of what he was seeing.

Speaking about Hudson-Odoi in October, he said: “Is there a tipping point? Okay, you have to prove it. He needs to play the next 250 games at the highest level and after that was the turning point, but will it be a turning point if he plays a brilliant game tomorrow? Nope.

“It’s only a turning point if he makes it a turning point and only if he doesn’t just play a good game, a good half, 60 good minutes, but he does it consistently. It’s as easy as that with every player.

“Once you do this, you will have more minutes. Once I get more minutes, maybe I’ll look back and say, ‘That was a turning point.’

“You have to fight for it. You have to deserve it. It must be a perfect fit at a perfect time. Sometimes it takes a little luck, but in the end, the only person who can answer that question is Callum, and we’ll stand by him.”

A measure of Hudson-Odoi’s determination to impress in pre-season (the club leaves for a three-game tour of the United States on July 9) is reflected in the fact that he has barely stopped since last season ended. on May 22. He only took a week off and was still working on his fitness during that.

Hudson-Odoi has a personal trainer (anyone who follows him on Instagram can see posts of grueling workouts involving a lot of weights), but it is believed he has also been going to the club’s Cobham training ground for the last four or five weeks to doing drills with the coaches there, as well as joining the under-23s when they reported last week.

Everything has had the desired effect. The injury that brought an early end to last season is a thing of the past and he feels fit and strong.

There is another motivation for Hudson-Odoi to get off to a strong start to the new season, which could also influence what happens in the remaining weeks of the summer transfer window.

Despite numerous reports suggesting he is ready to switch allegiances to play Ghana at the World Cup in November, it is understood that it is too early and unlikely to happen as things stand.

While he faces a major challenge to force his way back into the account, Hudson-Odoi still harbors hopes of making England’s 26-man squad for the final.

It will take months of very good form to persuade manager Gareth Southgate to start drafting him again, because the last of his three caps came in 2019. To pull off the feat, he will have to play regularly for someone.

Hudson-Odoi


Hudson-Odoi has not played for England since 2019 (Photo: Andrej Isakovic/AFP/Getty Images)

Hudson-Odoi may opt to play for Ghana in Qatar, whose World Cup venue is controversial for reasons outlined in this article, despite already playing in competitive matches for England. A FIFA rule change in 2020 allows players with no more than three caps to switch, provided they made those appearances before their 21st birthday.

But Hudson-Odoi doesn’t just think about the benefit of representing Ghana in a major tournament. By committing to them now, he is expected to travel long distances during and at the end of seasons for the next decade or so. While it would be a privilege, it is also another burden to shoulder during what is already a busy schedule at club level.

At the moment, the vast majority of Chelsea fans only care who is buying the club. However, the market is a double-edged sword and naturally, entries have an impact on exits.

The next few months (the transfer deadline is September 1 at 11pm UK time) could have a major bearing on Hudson-Odoi’s future.

(Top photo: Craig Mercer/MB Media/Getty Images)

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