He began work as a technical academy coach on Monday and that’ll be a really interesting new challenge for him so we’re obviously going to chat to him about that but also reflect a little on his career.
We’ll touch on what it was like signing for Chelsea under the Roman Abramovich revolution, what life was like for him at Liverpool and what he learnt from his experiences in America over the last couple of years.
But what I’m really excited to talk to Joe, Rio [Ferdinand] and Chris [Sutton] about is the youth policy at Chelsea.
If you look at the surface of it, they’ve just signed a 20-year-old attacking winger for £58m in the shape of Christian Pulisic at the same time they’re thinking about selling an 18-year-old winger that’s come through the academy for £35m.
You look at Callum Hudson-Odoi and think he deserves to be given a chance but then the Chelsea manager Maurizio Sarri is saying in press conferences this week that his job is just to win football matches.
In many ways this shouldn’t surprise us because this is what Chelsea have done since Abramovich arrived. They’ve allowed youth to leave for a lot of money and then brought in established stars and it hasn’t caused a rift at any other point in the last 15 or so years.
But I think what’s changed is our opinion of young English players. The likes of Jadon Sancho going to the Bundesliga and doing brilliantly has helped, as has the English youth team’s successes on the world stage and people now know these young players are good enough.
The only way to really find out if Hudson-Odoi is good enough, which I think he is, is for Sarri to give him a run in the team but it doesn’t look like that’s going to happen.
If you look at it logically Chelsea’s financial plan makes sense, because they can buy a proven player who has more than 100 appearances for Borussia Dortmund for less than £60m and sell a player an unproven one for almost £40m.
If there are two things that sum up Abramovich’s time at Chelsea, it’s impatience and silverware.
So Pulisic coming in and Hudson-Odoi leaving is kind of in keeping with what they have always done and it’s clearly worked for them. We all know about Romelu Lukaku, Kevin De Bruyne and Mo Salah leaving in their younger days because there were more experienced, established players there and ready to play.
Then even sold an emerging Nemanja Matic to Benfica and then brought him back when he’d proven himself!
But for me it’s the ability of Hudson-Odoi and his performances in fleeting opportunities – like the FA Cup against Nottingham Forest and the League Cup semi-final away at Tottenham – that is changing this conversation slightly.
I just think England’s success at last summer’s World Cup, the fact Gareth Southgate is building around young players and the performances of the younger age squads, the narrative has changed.
I think there was a period where as fans we just wanted the world’s best players in the Premier League but I think that’s changed now.
We ran a poll on our BT Sport Score Twitter account this week asking if you would rather Hudson-Odoi or Pulisic in your team for the next five years and the response was overwhelming – the English youngster took 68% of the votes!
But it’s not just about the clubs, it’s also about the players and Rio has said previously that our young players need to have a mind-set change where they accept earning less money in the short term – like Sancho going to Dortmund – to get ahead in the long term.
It all comes back to over rewarding our young players financially again because if you’re say Tammy Abraham and you’re getting phenomenal sums of money to be a Chelsea player and head out on loan then in many ways that works for everyone.
Chelsea get massive loan fees from the likes of Aston Villa and Abraham still gets his larger contract paid but what about his career progression?
At some point surely he will move away permanently, perhaps to Wolves if that comes off, and I would imagine he’ll have to take a pay cut. So overpaying them puts pressure on the club to earn some of it back but also puts the player in a difficult position because their expectations are raised at say 18 about what they think they should be earning.
I think as football fans we must also change our narrative because we obsess about giving young players an opportunity but then when they get one, because we want instant success as well, the first thing we did is question if they’re good enough!
So if you’re going to give say Hudson-Odoi a chance, manager and fans have to accept that he might make some mistakes as he’s developing but it’ll be worth it in the future.
But very few clubs actually do it in the Premier League, perhaps because they don’t think they can give them the time they need, so the question I’ll be asking the guys is – what needs to change?
I’m a massive advocate of players going abroad to learn because you get both more rounded footballers but also more rounded individuals. In some ways it’s crazy that the Premier League clubs allow these players to go and will then have to pay a lot more to bring them back but if it’s the only way those young English players will get an opportunity then so be it.
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