Callum Hudson-Odoi’s loan away from Chelsea was long overdue.
One of the brightest talents in the Blues’ recent academy success, Hudson-Odoi’s transition to senior football took a little longer than anticipated under Maurizio Sarri, only for a nasty Achilles injury to derail him once that did arrive in April 2019.
When he returned from that issue the following September, a loan move was probably the right move.
Instead, he stuck around at Stamford Bridge and started just seven Premier League games. He did feature in 22 across the season, averaging just under 39 minutes per appearance.
The summer of 2020 came around, and clearly not a core member of the first team, Hudson-Odoi should have left on loan, but he didn’t. A further ten starts, split up between Lampard and Thomas Tuchel, would follow.
2021/22 yielded zero loans and 11 Premier League starts, so by the time that campaign had finished, Hudson-Odoi’s career CV looked like this: 71 appearances, 32 starts and an average of 46 minutes per appearance.
Over four full seasons.
For comparison, Everton’s Anthony Gordon – a Chelsea target this summer – played 598 fewer Premier League minutes last season alone than Hudson-Odoi has accumulated since his breakthrough towards the end of the 2017/18 season.
Few players needed a loan move this season quite like Hudson-Odoi, who joined Bayer Leverkusen on a 12-month deal that, crucially, does not include an option to buy. However, a report from Germany states that he could be recalled in January as Graham Potter is such a huge fan of his.
While it’s encouraging to know there is a Chelsea manager who believes in Hudson-Odoi, bringing the 21-year-old back from his loan early would be a disastrous decision.
In his first five appearances in Germany, Hudson-Odoi has one assist to his name and a handful of excellent performances that ensure his stat line doesn’t tell the whole story. His build-up work for a struggling Leverkusen side has gone under the radar among casual watchers but his creativity in his side’s 2-0 victory over Atletico Madrid in the Champions League deservedly attracted plenty of praise.
It’s obviously a small sample size, but the impact Hudson-Odoi has been able to have in just five games is clear. He’s relishing player under a coach who trusts him and is prepared to give him both the tactical freedom and the minutes needed to bring out his best stuff.
For once in his senior career, Chelsea must not deny Hudson-Odoi regular action because he might see some minutes at Stamford Bridge.
Hudson-Odoi is begging to live up to the hype he has generated. He has been asking Chelsea to give him the chance to justify his massive wage, and the only way to do that is by playing consistent, high-level football – not substitute appearances and Carabao Cup third-round outings, but start after start after start for a major European club.
Sure, he might get that at Chelsea, but there are no guarantees. Potter has to juggle a forward line that includes Raheem Sterling, Kai Havertz, Mason Mount, Hakim Ziyech, Christian Pulisic, Armando Broja and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang. Broja aside, each of those is a bigger, more expensive name than Hudson-Odoi and all will demand a significant share of the minutes.
Tuchel couldn’t find that balance, and realistically, Potter won’t either. There are simply too many cogs in the machine and Hudson-Odoi must not get lost in that. Not again.
Remaining in Leverkusen, away from the spotlight and the fear to make mistakes that comes with it, is crucial for Hudson-Odoi at this point. He needs a consistent, uninterrupted campaign to get his development back on track, and Germany is the best place for him.