Maurizio Sarri says he does not need convincing about Callum Hudson-Odoi’s massive potential although he preached caution regarding putting too much pressure on the 18-year-old’s shoulders.
Having come on as a 78th-minute substitute in the Blues’ 3-0 win over Dynamo Kiev in the first leg of their Europa League last-16 tie, Hudson-Odoi produced a dash of class in the dying minutes of the match to score his third goal in the competition this season.
Hudson-Odoi was recently the subject of heavy interest from Bayern Munich last January and while the 18-year-old was so keen on making the switch that he even handed in a transfer request, the Chelsea hierarchy rejected it and told him to stay put at Stamford Bridge.
A fresh contract has been on the table for the London native yet he so far has refrained from putting pen to paper owing to the club’s lack of assurances over first-team opportunities. While he has already appeared in 16 matches for the west London side this campaign, only six of which has been as a starter. To add to that, he is yet to start in a Premier League match under Sarri, suggesting he is yet to fully trust the teenager for a full 90 minutes on the pitch.
In a recent interview, however, the ex-Napoli manager maintained he does not need convincing about Hudson-Odoi’s extraordinary talents, although he reiterated the need to keep the heavy burden of expectation off the teenager’s shoulders.
“He doesn’t have to do anything to convince me. He’s a very great player. In my opinion, a player at 18 years old cannot be at the top. He needs to improve until he’s 22 or 23,” said the 60-year-old Italian.
“To have pressure when you’re 18 is dangerous. You can lose (sight of) the target. When you’re 18 the target is to improve tactically, mentally and physically. I don’t like to speak about him for this reason.
“Now he needs to improve without the pressure of the media, the fans and the club, but he is in my mind for every match.”