Is ‘stupid Sarri’ blowing Chelsea’s chances of keeping Hudson-Odoi?

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The Blues are trying to persuade the 18-year-old Bayern target to sign a contract extension but those efforts are being undermined by the manager

Maurizo Sarri's use of Callum Hudson-Odoi is as puzzling as it is detrimental to Chelsea's hopes of holding on to the in-demand 18-year-old winger.

The Blues boss has enough problems on his plate, as he tries to bring balance to a side that is only just managing to hang on to the coattails of Arsenal, Tottenham and Manchester United in a fiercely competitive race for a top-four finish.

From Gonzalo Higuain's problems up front to the redeployment of N'Golo Kante, Sarri is under intense scrutiny over his use of Chelsea's players.

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It is, therefore, baffling that he has effectively made another rod for his back by restricting Hudson-Odoi – one of the few success stories of the club's turbulent campaign so far – to a bit-part role at Stamford Bridge.

The Chelsea academy product has mesmerised the football world every time he has set foot on the pitch this season, quickly endearing himself to his team-mates and Chelsea's fans.

His scintillating skills earned him an England debut in March, while Bayern Munich were so impressed by what they saw of Hudson-Odoi during his fleeting performances during the first half of the season that they bid £35 million ($46m) for his services in January.

The youngster wanted to leave too. Frustrated by his lack of game time, he personally handed in a transfer request to club director Marina Granovskaia. It was promptly rejected and Chelsea have since insisted that Hudson-Odoi is not for sale.

Sarri has said likewise but the fact of the matter is that he has just over a year left on his contract and Bayern are just one of a group of super-club suitors hoping to sign Hudson-Odoi this summer.

Maurizio Sarri Cardiff vs Chelsea Premier League 2018-19

Consequently, his lack of starts is only fuelling the fear that the teenager will be even more determined to depart at the end of the season. Indeed, Chelsea fans anxiously scan the team-sheet ahead of every game to see if their home-grown hero has been included in the starting line-up.

Their desire to see Hudson-Odoi succeed is understandable. Not since John Terry has a local talent become a first-team regular at the Bridge.

The fans know this but Hudson-Odoi knows it too. Chelsea's academy is widely regarded as one of the best in the world but so many of its graduates are forced to leave west London in search of game time elsewhere.

Sarri's appointment has done nothing to address this issue. Like many of his predecessors, his primary concern is, understandably, his own survival in a notoriously cut-throat environment. His focus is on resolving his present problems, not planning for the future.

However, he has not handled the Hudson-Odoi situation well at all and the fans are furious. "You don't know what you're doing!" rung out around Stamford Bridge when Sarri brought on Davide Zappacosta ahead of Hudson-Odoi while unsuccessfully chasing the FA Cup tie against Manchester United in February.

Chants of 'Sarri Out!' and 'F*ck Sarriball!' have also been clearly audible at recent games, home and away, with supporters upset with their manager's perceived stubborn streak. Indeed, even Sarri himself admits that he prefers to focus on a core group of 14 players in a bid to extract greater consistency from his team.

This has meant few chances for Hudson-Odoi, despite him starring in pre-season. He has made just six appearances in the Premier League this season – all as a substitute. His only starts have come in cup competitions.

Is it any wonder, then, that he has thus far refused to sign a contract extension? He will certainly feel he would be better served by moving to another club, particularly when he looks at the situation fellow 18-year-old Ethan Ampadu now finds himself in.

The Wales international penned a five-year contract with the Blues in September but hasn't seen a single minute of Premier League action this term.

Jadon Sancho Hudson-Odoi England

Hudson-Odoi has fared slightly better. If anything, his transfer request applied some pressure on Sarri to give him more opportunities but it was telling that after starting – and creating a goal – for England against Montenegro last week, he returned to Chelsea and spent the entirety of Sunday's Premier League game against Cardiff on the bench.

And that was in spite of the fact that Eden Hazard had been rested and the Blues had performed horribly for nearly the whole game.

However, it was Sarri's comments beforehand which really infuriated Chelsea fans.

"I saw the English national team for 20 minutes, and Callum didn't start very well on the right," Sarri explained. "He did very well on the left, immediately in his first action. But I know very well he prefers to play on the left."

Ex-England international Jamie Carragher was stunned by Sarri's admission that he had only seen part of the Montenegro match.

"This is a lad who's making his international debut – why are you not watching the full game?" the former Liverpool defender said on Sky Sports.

"You could argue Sarri is watching a lot of his Chelsea team-mates, flicking the channels, but he doesn't need to watch them, they are all 27, 28, 29.

Jamie Carragher quote GFX

"This is a young kid. Can he handle the spotlight of playing for England? This is a lad I'm trying to keep at my club.

"So, to then just dismiss this lad's international debut – maybe the biggest thing that's ever happened to him as a footballer – I can just imagine the people above Sarri just shaking their head and thinking, 'Why are you saying such a stupid thing in the press conference? We are trying to get this lad to sign a contract'.

"I would not be surprised if the people at the top at Chelsea were onto the agent and trying to calm the situation down.

"If he hasn't watched it and he doesn't think he's played well, be clever, use your brain. Don't say it. Say you did watch it.

"Of course, he has to improve, he's still a kid, but to dismiss someone on their international debut I think it was an absolutely stupid thing to say."

It certainly hasn't helped Chelsea in their bid to persuade Hudson-Odoi that his career would be better served by staying at Stamford Bridge.

Sarri has made it clear that he will not be swayed by public opinion and right now it seems that if he is still at Chelsea next season, Hudson-Odoi won't be.

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