Maurizio Sarri explains why Hudson-Odoi probably won’t start at Cardiff
Maurizio Sarri believes Callum Hudson-Odoi has several areas of his game to improve and says his efforts for England in midweek were only against very low opposition.
Hudson-Odoi has made seven cup starts under Sarri, but he is yet to start a game in the Premier League, despite getting the nod to make his full debut for England on Monday in Montenegro.
At Friday’s news conference Sarri admitted he only watched Hudson-Odoi in action for 20 minutes and the winger looks set for a watching briefing again against Cardiff on Saturday.
“[I watched] only 20 minutes,” Sarri said. “I had 14 players in the national teams, and I had no time to watch 20 matches. I saw the English national team only for 20-25 minutes, and Callum didn’t start very well in the first 20 minutes on the right [wing].
“He did very well on the left, immediately. The first time he went to the left. But I know him very well, and I know he prefers to play on the left.
“In qualification for the European Championship, the level is really very low, it’s not Premier League level, of course.
“There are a lot of national teams with a very low level.
“I cannot understand why there is only one group; maybe it’s better to have the European Championship for the first level, and also 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.”
Sarri though has urged Hudson-Odoi to become “one of the most important players in Europe” – by staying at Chelsea.
The 18-year-old’s Chelsea contract expires in the summer of 2020, and the Blues rebuffed a £35million bid from Bayern Munich back in January.
Chelsea are understood to want to finalise a new long-term deal for their home-grown forward by the end of the summer.
Asked if he expects Hudson-Odoi to be at Chelsea next term, Sarri said: “I think so, I think so. I’m not able to say if he’s going to sign a new contract or not, but I think he will stay here with us in any case.
“Probably, in the near future, he will start in 75 to 80 per cent of matches.
“He is doing very well, but he needs to improve more because the potential is really very high. And so I don’t want him to stop improving.
“He can become, I think, one of the most important players in Europe.”
Hudson-Odoi’s father Bismark and brother Bradley act as his advisors, with Bismark the Chelsea star’s registered agent.
Chelsea are keen to keep negotiating with a view to securing their prize asset on a new deal, and are understood to be outlining all of the positives that would accompany blossoming into a genuine superstar at his boyhood club.
The Blues face Cardiff in Wales on Sunday as the Premier League returns after the international window, in which Hudson-Odoi won his first two senior England caps.
The Wandsworth-born forward has been backed to shake off the racial abuse he has suffered in recent action for both Chelsea and England.
And Sarri also insisted the 18-year-old is ready for his full Premier League debut, with that milestone having so far eluded him purely “by chance”.
“We have to play eight matches in 28 days, and so I am sure that Callum will start in two or three matches,” said Sarri.
“Premier League, Europa League, FA Cup, for me, it’s the same; for me, there’s no difference.
“I’m really very confident in him. He has started a lot of matches, not in the Premier League, but that’s by chance.
“It’s not a problem for me to put him in the starting XI in a Premier League match. He’s ready.
“But of course I can play with only two wingers. In the squad we have (Eden) Hazard, Willian, Pedro, so it’s not really very easy to start in every match here.”
Sarri insists staggering Hudson-Odoi’s first-team progress at Chelsea remains in the player’s best interests, and urged him to stay grounded and patient.
“He has to stay with his feet on the floor,” said Sarri.
“He has to work every day, and improve the left, improve in the defensive phase, improve the movement without the ball. It’s for his own good, but also for my good!”