Maurizio Sarri Plays Down Callum Hudson-Odoi England Form Ahead of EPL Return

Matt JonesFeatured ColumnistMarch 30, 2019

LONDON, ENGLAND - JANUARY 12: Chelsea manager Maurizio Sarri prepares to bring on Callum Hudson-Odoi of Chelsea as a substitute during the Premier League match between Chelsea FC and Newcastle United at Stamford Bridge on January 12, 2019 in London, United Kingdom. (Photo by Chris Brunskill/Fantasista/Getty Images)
Chris Brunskill/Fantasista/Getty Images

Chelsea manager Maurizio Sarri played down the recent good performances of winger Callum Hudson-Odoi for England but said he thinks the player is "ready to start against any opponent."

The 18-year-old made his senior Three Lions debut as a substitute, coming off the bench in the 5-0 win over the Czech Republic. He then started in the 5-1 win over Montenegro on Monday and impressed with his vibrant play in wide areas.

The outing against Montenegro means Hudson-Odoi lined up for England before making his first start in the Premier League. Sarri was asked whether the 18-year-old's displays on international duty have made him reconsider his choice to hold back Hudson-Odoi from starting top-flight football, per Nick Szczepanik of the Daily Telegraph:

"No, because [Chelsea] do not have to play against Montenegro. I think that in the qualification for the European Championships, the level is really very low. It's not the Premier League level, of course. There are a lot of national teams with a very low level. Maybe it's better to have the European Cup for the first level, and a European Cup for a second level.

"It's incredible that a player who is very important for a club has to play in Malta and Cyprus, in Liechtenstein or Andorra."

In his first England appearance, Hudson-Odoi played a part in their fifth goal in the win over Czech Republic (UK only):

ITV Football @itvfootball

It's FIVE for @England! Kalas turns into his own net after Hudson-Odoi's strike is saved Watch live on @ITV right now https://t.co/V4eUhvX8Fu

Sarri added "Callum is ready to play against every opponent" but also said "he has to stay with his feet on the floor" in order to continue improving. The Italian said Hudson-Odoi would get plenty of game time during a busy spell of the season for the Blues:

Chelsea FC @ChelseaFC

Sarri says that due to the busy schedule ahead, he is sure Hudson-Odoi will start two or three of the matches. #CARCHE

While Chelsea supporters are rightly excited about their academy graduate's potential, there are fears regarding his long-term future.

Hudson-Odoi's Blues contract will expire at the end of next season, and he's already attracted significant interest from Bayern Munich, who were unsuccessful in their attempts to sign him in January. According to ESPN FC's Tom Hamilton, the youngster still wants to leave in the summer.

Liam Twomey of ESPN FC commented on what is a difficult situation for the manager, the player and the club:

Liam Twomey @liam_twomey

Hudson-Odoi’s situation is unprecedented & not of Sarri’s making. Chelsea’s culture also means he’s justified in prioritising immediate targets/his own job security. But it’s a simple fact that nothing he’s said or done has allayed the concerns of Hudson-Odoi or his camp #cfc

Bleacher Report's Dean Jones thinks it's key Chelsea show faith in the winger:

Dean Jones @DeanJonesBR

Chelsea are offering Callum Hudson-Odoi a new £100,000-a-week deal... but the only way to really show they value him is to put him in the starting line up at Cardiff on Sunday.

When he has been given chances in a blue shirt this season, Hudson-Odoi has delivered. The UEFA Europa League has given him an opportunity to thrive, and he has notched four goals and two assists in eight appearances.

Sarri's caution when it comes to young players is understandable, and he will be wary that the hype surrounding Hudson-Odoi could get out of control. However, all the signs point to a player who is ready to make an impact in the final weeks of the season, as the Blues aim to win the Europa League and earn a top-four finish in the Premier League.