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Callum Hudson-Odoi can become one of Europe's 'most important players,' says Maurizio Sarri

Sarri also dismissed transfer speculation surrounding the youngster

Miguel Delaney
Chief Football Writer
Tuesday 01 January 2019 14:30 GMT
Chelsea: A look back at 2018

Chelsea’s Callum Hudson-Odoi has the potential to be one of Europe’s “most important players”, according to his manager Maurizio Sarri who says his rise is all the more impressive because it is “not easy” for teenagers like him to break through at big clubs.

The 18-year-old has mostly been used in cups this season but has already attracted the attention of big clubs around the continent. Sarri was ready to use him in the Premier League this January and specifically for Wednesday’s match at home to Southampton, only for a muscle injury to flare up. While Sarri dismissed speculation about interest from abroad, he greatly praised Hudson-Odoi.

“I am not in charge of the market and so I want to speak to him only about the pitch,” the Chelsea boss said. “I think that he is a very good player, the potential is for becoming a great player, and now he has to improve. With the ball, he is a very good player.

“He has to improve I think in movement without the ball. As a winger, he has to improve in the defensive phase, but he has the potential to become a very important player, not only for the English football I think but for the European football.”

When it was put to Sarri how important it is for fans and clubs to bring through young players like Hudson-Odoi, the Italian admitted the pressures make it difficult.

“Yes, I think so but it’s not easy,” he said. “It’s not easy at this level to take the young players from the academy and he’s ready to play, not only here, everywhere in Europe. Sometimes there is one, two young players in Barcelona, from the academy, sometimes one, two Real Madrid, zero in Juventus, zero in Paris Saint-Germain.

“It’s not easy, and I think that we are lucky because we have [Ethan] Ampadu, we have [Andreas] Christensen, we have Odoi, so we are lucky. Take for players in the academy, we are really very lucky, or the academy is very good.

“In Europe, there are few [18-year-old] players, with eight matches at this level, so Odoi I think in this season played six, seven official matches in Europe, so I think that he has to be lucky. He is not lucky. He is good.”

Asked whether young players can be too impatient these days, Sarri quipped back: “I don’t know. Also the fans sometimes, also the club sometimes, and so I am in the middle. I have to win.”

Sarri’s decision to haul off Hudson-Odoi against Watford was booed, but he revealed the winger was injured – and it could yet keep him out of the Southampton match.

“He was injured, so I don’t know what to say, but I can understand that a fan loves young players from the academy, I can understand very well, but in the long run I have to win matches, and the fans I think want me to win matches, and also the club I think.”

Sarri met with the Chelsea medical team after the Palace win, but it was still too early to say if Hudson-Odoi would be available.

“It’s a muscular problem, and so I think that we need to be careful.”

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