Chelsea head coach Maurizio Sarri has told Callum Hudson-Odoi he has the potential to be one of Europe’s best players.
Bayern Munich and other top clubs around Europe have been linked with a move for the 18-year-old, whose Chelsea contract has 18 months to run.
Sarri, who ruled out recalling Michy Batshuayi or Tammy Abraham from their loan deals despite Olivier Giroud’s ankle injury, said: “He is a very good player, the potential is for becoming a great player, and now he has to improve.
“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 English football I think but for European football.”
Chelsea supporters have long been clamouring for an academy graduate to emulate long-serving skipper John Terry by enjoying a lengthy career in the first team.
High expectations have been placed on Ruben Loftus-Cheek, but the 22-year-old has found it easier to break into the England squad than Chelsea’s.
Hudson-Odoi made his first Premier League appearance of the season as a substitute at Watford on Boxing Day, only to suffer a hamstring injury.
He has made five Europa League appearances, scoring one goal, and may be wondering whether he will experience similar frustrations to Loftus-Cheek.
He may also look at the experience of Jadon Sancho, who has thrived since swapping Manchester City for Borussia Dortmund. The pair won the Under-17 World Cup with England in 2017.
Sarri admitted the struggle to balance winning with promoting young talent at Chelsea.
Asked if young players, like Hudson-Odoi, need to be more patient, Sarri said: “Also the fans sometimes, also the club sometimes, and so I am in the middle. I have to win.
“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.
“We are lucky because we have (Ethan) Ampadu, we have (Andreas) Christensen, we have Odoi.
“We are really very lucky, or the academy is very good.”
Whether Hudson-Odoi is fit to face Southampton on Wednesday remains to be seen.
The injury to Giroud means Alvaro Morata is expected to start up front against Saints.
Eden Hazard could revert to the ‘false nine’ role he played for four successive Premier League games prior to the win against Crystal Palace, but injuries to Pedro (hamstring), Loftus-Cheek (back) and Hudson-Odoi mean he may have to play in his preferred left wing role.
Sarri says he has no need to recall Batshuayi from Valencia or Abraham from Aston Villa, despite Giroud’s injury.
The Italian added: “At the moment I don’t need another striker.
“We have Morata and Hazard can play very well in this position as we have seen.”
Midfielder Cesc Fabregas (neck) also missed the win at Palace.
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