Hudson-Odoi must resist urge to follow Tammy Abraham despite Chelsea uncertainty
Callum Hudson-Odoi is approaching a crossroads in his Chelsea career.
He's not at the lights yet, but the 'give way' sign is pulling into view and soon the 21-year-old will have to decide whether to stick or twist with the club.
It's been nearly three years since he handed in a transfer request in attempt to force a move to Bayern Munich, and while interest from Germany may have cooled since then, his stock has arguably never been higher.
He's featured in two-thirds of Chelsea's matches so far this season – an impressive feat when you consider the colleagues he's competing against.
The winger played a crucial role in the Blues' hard-fought victory over Aston Villa on Boxing Day – which, for the moment at least, has re-aligned their wobbling title challenge – becoming the youngest Chelsea player to register 10 Premier League assists in the process.
Hudson-Odoi is playing with a confidence, and dare I say an arrogance that we haven't seen since the carefree days of his debut season under Maurizio Sarri.
It's little surprise to hear that the chain-smoking Italian wants a reunion with him at Lazio, and in light of former colleague and friend Tammy Abraham's successful Serie A switch, why shouldn't he consider it?
After all, Chelsea fans haven't quite warmed to him like they have to the likes of Mason Mount or Reece James, he's constantly overlooked for England selection by Gareth Southgate, and rumour has it Thomas Tuchel is in the market for another winger.
Why not pack up and begin anew? Well, lots of reasons.
Unlike Abraham, Hudson-Odoi will never be completely starved of minutes at Stamford Bridge. Wingers are an interchangeable part of most top European sides, and given the hectic-ness of next year's football calendar, rotation will be a necessity.
And would it be wise to pass up the opportunity to work with one of the modern game's most highly-rated managers?
Sure, his relationship with Tuchel doesn't have the Disneyfied air of destiny that Phil Foden and Pep Guardiola share for example, but the next 18 months or so are absolutely crucial for Hudson-Odoi and his development.
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He's a year younger than Raheem Sterling was when Guardiola arrived at Manchester City, and think back to how dramatically his game improved after a year or two of working under a genius.
Under Pellegrini, Sterling finished the season with 20 goal involvements. That figure jumped to 30 after Guardiola's first season, and again to 40 in his second.
Tuchel isn't Guardiola, but he's as fiercely demanding and as tactically sharp as his Spanish counterpart – and coaches like that don't come around all that often – even at a revolving-door club like Chelsea.
The German has used Hudson-Odoi in a variety of positions over the past year – right wing, left wing, inside-forward and even wing-back – which has sometimes made it hard for him to find a rhythm, but the world's best forwards are very rarely one-dimensional and he'll benefit no end from having different problems to solve each week.
10 goals in the past three season doesn't make for great viewing, but seeing as the winger's xG (expected goals) has more than doubled in the past year, are we starting to see the fruits of Tuchel's labour?
It's easy to forget how young Hudson-Odoi is – a year-and-a-half younger than Chelsea's latest debutant Trevoh Chalobah for the record – so there needn't be a panic over a lack of game-time, not yet at least.
Playing regular football in Serie A for an old Italian admirer would be taking the easy route at this point. If Hudson-Odoi wants that first-season magic back then he needs to keep his nose to the grindstone.
If he proves to Tuchel that he can handle the heat, the moulding can begin. And in a few years, he'll thank his lucky stars he never slowed down at those crossroads.
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