By 90Min
September 20, 2019

Two years ago, the notion of an 18-year-old signing a new contract at Chelsea would hardly have provoked much acclaim among supporters.

The general consensus would have been: "Ah, another academy product tied down until they're inevitably loaned out and eventually sold." However, in the case of Callum Hudson-Odoi in 2019, his putting pen to paper has been welcomed like a new marquee signing.

Back in 2017, the club was fresh from a fifth Premier League title win, under the motivational tutelage of the seemingly untouchable Antonio Conte, hotly anticipated signings Alvaro Morata, Tiemoue Bakayoko and Danny Drinkwater through the door (insert gritted teeth emoji) and without the cloud of a transfer ban hanging over them.

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None of the Blues' highly-regarded Under-21 contingent were anywhere near the first-team squad - bar Hudson-Odoi. Newfound goalscoring star Tammy Abraham was about to embark on an ill-fated loan campaign with Swansea City, while Mason Mount had been shipped out to Vitesse in the Eredivisie, following in the footsteps of innumerable others.

Conte would come in for plenty of criticism for not giving the then 16-year-old Hudson-Odoi a chance during the first half of the campaign as Chelsea wallowed in mid-table, although most fans' assertions were based on YouTube compilations.

The youngster would seize his opportunity at the turn of the year - proving those YouTube videos to be a correct demonstration of his talents - but more frustration would follow the next season under another staunch Italian in Maurizio Sarri. Again, in the latter part of the season, he would see more opportunities, by which point the fans were well aware of the winger's potential and vying for his inclusion week in, week out.

The distraught reaction to his ill-timed injury against Burnley at the backend of last season was fuelled by the imminent transfer ban and Real Madrid lingering in the shadows, waiting to pounce on Eden Hazard. CHO's five goals and five assists in 2018/19 had been enough to convince fans that he was the man, he was the future.

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Such was the sharp rise in his stock, once talisman Hazard did finally depart, there were even calls for the 18-year-old to be given the vacant no.10 shirt, although he was eventually pipped by Willian. 

His ability hadn't gone unnoticed. Hazard's protracted departure preceded a desperate tug of war between the London club and Bayern Munich as Chelsea attempted to mitigate for their best player heading to the Spanish capital.

Thankfully, that was a battle they won, but the fact that Hudson-Odoi is already one of the club's best players and their determination to keep the 18-year-old despite a big money offer is a reflection of the place they are currently in. While the winger's stock has risen dramatically, Chelsea's has simultaneously plummeted.

The inconsistent start under Frank Lampard only serves to reinforce the opinion that the departed Belgian singlehandedly hauled the club through multiple borderline matches to a positive result last season. Aside from Tammy Abraham's goals, something has been missing; a creative spark, some flair, the inherent ability to get the crowd on its feet with a single touch of the football. The club's self-inflicted fall from grace will open the door for Hudson-Odoi to fill that void.


Following summer-long whispers of a new deal, unprecedented fanfare has greeted his new five-year contract. Thousands of Chelsea supporters have welcomed the long-term agreement on social media, demonstrating just how highly regarded he is.



But while it is positive to see so many supporters - and fans of other clubs - excited by the prospect of the 18-year-old gracing the Stamford Bridge turf for many more years to come, the reaction is tinged with desperation and must be caveated by the consideration that Chelsea are going through an indefinite period of transition.


There is the distinct possibility they will fail to qualify for Europe and consequently struggle to attract the best players even once the ban is lifted. However, under Lampard, should he last the course, there will be a reliance on youth never before seen at Stamford Bridge in the Abramovich era - the early stages of which we are already witnessing. 


That is an exciting prospect for fans of a club that have been calling for the academy's products to be given a chance for years. Despite the potentially negative outcome, Abraham, Mount and Hudson-Odoi leading the line will be a joy to behold.

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