The coverage has largely focused on Chelsea’s supposed failure. How could they let another young player leave? Why do they not produce homegrown players? Where is the commitment to young English footballers? Isn’t it a shame that our young players ‘have’ to go abroad to play regular football?
Now, an alternative set of questions. Isn’t it brilliant that Bayern Munich value a young English player so highly? Isn’t it wonderful that a young English player has the confidence to join a genuine European giant? Isn’t it fantastic that English Academy products are taking their future in their own hands and doing what young foreign footballers have been doing for decades?
In the week when English football bade farewell to Cesc Fabregas, it’s worth remembering that he came to these shores at the age of 16 because he feared his path to the first team at Barcelona would be blocked. Callum Hudson-Odoi is two years older and fears the same fate at Chelsea. The difference between him and Fabregas is that he is actually being offered a promotion – from one of Europe’s second tier of clubs to one firmly ensconced in the elite. It’s been eight years since Bayern last failed to reach the Champions League quarter-finals; it’s been five years since Chelsea got there at all.
It’s an astonishing compliment that Bayern are so aggressively chasing a player with little more than an hour’s Premier League experience. Those urging Maurizio Sarri to play the 18-year-old are entirely missing the point; at this juncture it would probably make sod all difference if Hudson-Odoi started five games in a row. Bayern are a bigger club and young English footballers in 2019 can see beyond our borders like no other generation. The detail – missed by all those who choose to make this into a ‘woe is English football’ story – is that the winger has turned down a new deal at Chelsea and wants to leave. He is not asking Chelsea for reasons to stay and Chelsea have no obligation to offer them.
It’s not like there are chumps ahead of him at Chelsea. The three wingers playing for the Blues in the Premier League have 98, 64 and 64 international caps; Sarri is repeatedly turning to those players because they have delivered and they are continuing to deliver. Hudson-Odoi has no right to jump that queue because he is young, English or been at the club since the age of seven. Having grown up within a football club, he probably understands that meritocracy better than those who bemoan his lack of opportunities. Thankfully, he is valued higher in Munich.
‘No Academy prospect has emerged to win a regular place at Chelsea in the Roman Abramovich era,’ writes Martin Samuel in the Daily Mail. The simple explanation is that none of those Academy players were good enough to win a regular place at Chelsea. Perhaps Samuel – and others – should remember how they trotted out the same lines when Dominic Solanke opted to leave Chelsea for Liverpool. It turns out that all Chelsea really missed out on was the £19m Liverpool have pocketed from Bournemouth for an unwanted player.
Chelsea made mistakes with Mo Salah, Romelu Lukaku and Kevin De Bruyne, but these were not Academy graduates. Indeed, a list of Chelsea Academy graduates since John Terry who have made over 100 Premier League appearances either with Chelsea or other clubs features only Robert Huth, Carlton Cole, Jack Cork, Ryan Bertrand, Patrick van Aanholt, Scott Sinclair, Fabio Borini and Nathan Ake. Not a lot has slipped through the net in the last 16 years.
Hudson-Odoi might be better than all of those players or he might just be the latest Josh McEachran (Brentford, to save you the Google) who has impressed as a teenager but will fail to make the transition to senior football. The good news – and it really is good news – is that he believes he can thrive at one of the biggest clubs in the world. And they agree. Isn’t that marvellous?