Despite Bayern Munich’s best attempts, the 18-year-old winger has signed a bumper new contract with the Blues, ending 18 months of uncertainty
Callum Hudson-Odoi has been only 18 years old – yet he has just signed a contract worth £180,000 a week that Chelsea used to fend off interest from Bayern Munich in the winger’s services.
In the circumstances, you would be forgiven for thinking that Hudson-Odoi was a classic prodigy, one long destined for greatness. But, just 18 months ago, his hopes of making a breakthrough at senior level were low.
Granted, Hudson-Odoi had been brilliant at under-age level, alerting football scouts across Europe to his many talents, and he had featured three times under former Chelsea boss Antonio Conte.
However, at the time, morale was low among those hoping to graduate from the club’s famed academy. First-team opportunities were not forthcoming for even the most promising students.
For example, Marcin Bulka enjoyed a promising pre-season under Conte’s successor, Maurizio Sarri, in the summer of 2018 but still felt that he would be better off running down his Chelsea contract and joining Paris Saint-Germain.
Hudson-Odoi planned to do likewise.
Like Bulka, he excelled during in a string of friendly games before the start of the 2018-19 campaign, provoking huge excitement among the Chelsea faithful.
By that point, the club had already offered Hudson-Odoi a five-year contract. It was nothing like the money he will be earning now but that wasn’t the sticking point.
Hudson-Odoi was unwilling to put pen to paper because he doubted that he would see much – if any – Premier League game time under Sarri, a coach renowned for relying heavily on his senior stars.
The decision to hold off on committing to a contract proved a masterstroke.
Real Madrid, Barcelona, Juventus, Borussia Dortmund and Villarreal all began monitoring the situation.
Bayern Munich, though, actually made a move. They even went public with their interest ahead of the January transfer window, during which they made four bids, the last of which totalled £35 million (€38m/$42m).
Dortmund entered the fray by requesting Hudson-Odoi be included in a deal with Chelsea for Christian Pulisic. The Blues dismissed that idea and instead persuaded Dortmund to agree to a cash-only deal for the American attacker.
Still, it was clear that holding on to Hudson-Odoi was only becoming more and more difficult.
Hudson-Odoi even handed in a transfer request directly to the club’s director Marina Granovskaia only for it to be immediately turned down. The risk was, though, that Chelsea would lose the youngster for nothing when his contract expired in 2020. They essentially had a year to persuade Hudson-Odoi to sign a new deal before he would be in a position to speak to other clubs.
Sarri giving him more game time in the second half of last season certainly helped in that regard but the flip side was that it only intensified Bayern’s interest.
Hudson-Odoi’s profile was only growing. England handed him a first start before Chelsea.
Sarri responded by welcoming Hudson-Odoi into his first team. However, in what was his fourth successive start, Hudson-Odoi ruptured his Achilles tendon.
Despite the season-ending injury, Bayern remained in the hunt, offering the childhood Blues fan not only a considerable pay rise but also Arjen Robben’s No.10 shirt (since given to Philippe Coutinho).
Perhaps even more worryingly for Chelsea, Manchester United also emerged as a suitor, throwing up the almost unbearable idea of losing one of their most promising academy players in years to a Premier League rival.
Consequently, the importance of Frank Lampard’s appointment as manager cannot be overstated.
The Blues legend had placed his faith in young players, including Chelsea loanee Mason Mount, during his season-long stay at Derby County.
Even more crucially, he brought former Blues academy boss Jody Morris back to Stamford Bridge as part of his backroom team.
Both felt Hudson-Odoi had a major role to play in their new project, not least because of the departure of star soccer professional Eden Hazard to Real Madrid. Unsurprisingly, this was music to Hudson-Odoi’s ears. He finally a manager that deemed him worthy of a starting berth.
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As a result, he decided to commit his future to the club, signing a contract worth approximately £47m (€51m/$57m) over the next five years – an unprecedented deal at Chelsea for someone with just 28 senior club appearances to his name.
However, the Blues believe that he will prove worth all of the time, effort and money they have invested in holding on to him.
Hudson-Odoi could have been Robben’s heir at Bayern. Instead, he will be Hazard’s at Chelsea.