Sunday 15 September 2019

Maurizio Sarri hopes Callum Hudson-Odoi and Ruben Loftus-Cheek can be backbone of Chelsea future

The pair were influential in the win over Brighton.

Ruben Loftus-Cheek scored for the Blues against Brighton (Ian Walton/PA)
Ruben Loftus-Cheek scored for the Blues against Brighton (Ian Walton/PA)

By Nick Purewal, Press Association Sport

Maurizio Sarri hopes Chelsea can build their future around home grown stars Callum Hudson-Odoi and Ruben Loftus-Cheek.

Teenage England star Hudson-Odoi celebrated his full Premier League debut as he kick-started Chelsea’s 3-0 home win over Brighton by teeing up Olivier Giroud.

Eden Hazard and Loftus-Cheek then dispatched fine second-half goals to push Chelsea up to fifth, but one point off Tottenham in third.

Chelsea want to tie Hudson-Odoi down to a new long-term contract by the end of the summer, with the 18-year-old still interesting a host of top European suitors.

The Wandsworth-born forward’s full league bow could not come soon enough and after a fine display head coach Sarri admitted he wants Hudson-Odoi to become a Stamford Bridge fixture.

Asked if Hudson-Odoi and Loftus-Cheek can become the bedrock of Chelsea’s future, Sarri said: “I hope so, I think so and I hope so.

“At the moment very important but their potential is higher. So in the future they can become top players; for this team the future could be good.”

ipanews_5d67cd16-700d-4424-b269-bb6f5105d97a_embedded242133875
Ruben Loftus-Cheek celebrates his goal (Ian Walton/PA)

Despite Sarri’s high hopes for Chelsea’s two English stars, he also conceded it remains tough even for top clubs to hold onto young talents.

Chelsea rejected a £35million bid for Hudson-Odoi from Bayern Munich in January and want to extend his contract this summer, with his current deal expiring in 2020.

Asked if the club can take any specific steps to ensure they retain their top young talents, Sarri replied: “I don’t know; sometimes it’s impossible to do something.

“As you can see in other teams, it’s very difficult to keep the young players.

“Especially I think here in England because I think when you are under 18 here you can sign only for three years. So it’s a big risk for the club.”

ipanews_5d67cd16-700d-4424-b269-bb6f5105d97a_embedded242132589
Maurizio Sarri thinks it is becoming toughrer to hold onto young talent like Callum Hudson-Odoi (Ian Walton/PA)

Hudson-Odoi now boasts direct involvement in nine goals in his nine Chelsea starts in all competitions, having won his first two senior England caps last month.

Hudson-Odoi and Loftus-Cheek also became the first English duo to have assists for Chelsea in the same Premier League match since John Terry and Ashley Cole in January 2012.

The former Napoli manager has been well aware of the fans’ frustration at Hudson-Odoi’s wait for his league bow, but now the Chelsea chief believes the fast-improving star is ready to face anyone.

He has to keep his feet on the ground. It's impossible to be at the top when you are 18. Sarri on Hudson-Odoi

“Callum now is ready to play in every match, even the most difficult match,” said Sarri.

“He has improved a lot during the season. I was sure about his performance and he played very well.

“Callum is happy but I told him that he missed a very easy goal in the first half, and to that he just smiled. He’s a good boy.

“He has to keep his feet on the ground. He could risk thinking he is a player at 100 per cent, but it’s impossible to be at the top when you are 18.”

Sarri also revealed Loftus-Cheek has finally shaken off a long-standing back niggle, which he now hopes will free up the 23-year-old to hit top form.

“Loftus for the first time in the season is without his problem in his back,” said Sarri.

“So for the last 20 days he was able to train every day.

“Today he played very well and scored a wonderful goal but then had a little problem with his hamstring. Nothing serious, only a cramp I think.

“But tomorrow I want to be sure of the situation about his back.”

Chris Hughton admitted he hopes Solly March can shake off a calf issue in time for Saturday’s FA Cup semi-final against Manchester City.

“Solly felt his calf tightening, so we’re hoping that he came off at the right time,” said Hughton.

“At this moment I haven’t picked my team. It will have to be a team that I think can do the club justice and produce the best opportunity we have of getting something.”

PA Media

The Throw-In: Selection dilemma for Dublin and All-Ireland ladies football final preview

In association with Bord Gáis Energy

Also in Sport