In 2018 Callum Hudson-Odoi had the world at his feet, his name splashed across every headline and the eyes of European football firmly upon him.
Two years ago, while still a raw teen, Hudson-Odoi’s electric breakthrough turned heads, with many instantly comparing the pacey forward to his compatriot Jadon Sancho and a similar trajectory was predicted.
Since, Hudson-Odoi has been dealt a cruel blow with injuries and has seen his progress stunted as a result.
Chelsea’s forgotten man Callum Hudson-Odoi now finally has a chance to shine once again
Now the youngster finds himself in something of a middle ground at Chelsea, battling to prove himself in a team recently flushed with mass arrivals of big money talent.
Recent international form and injuries in the Blues ranks however may well have crafted a prime opportunity, but is Hudson-Odoi finally well placed to seize it? Sportsmail examines…
Three Lions thriller
It has been a rather spectacular week for Hudson-Odoi on the international stage, with the youngster tearing up the scene with England Under-21s.
Hudson-Odoi was the catalyst as the young Lions faced and defeated Andorra 3-1 at Wolves’ Molineux stadium, looking a cut above the rest.
The Chelsea starlet dominated in the final third and helped get England off the mark by slotting in Liverpool’s Curtis Jones for a simple finish.
The 20-year-old attacker is very much back in form and dazzling on the international scene
Hudson-Odoi rounded off a stellar performance by sealing victory from the penalty spot, before quickly taking his form into England’s next match.
Sharpened by his Andorra antics, Hudson-Odoi needed just four minutes to score against Albania, in a match England U21’s would go on to comfortably win 5-0.
Manager Aidy Boothroyd has on several occasions commented on both the professionalism and the determination of Hudson-Odoi, who agreed to drop back down to the youth team after seeing a serious ankle injury rob him of his senior England status.
While many players would have been disheartened by having their England hopes snatched away, Hudson-Odoi has focused on the task at hand and slotted seamlessly back into the U21 system while leaving all ego at the door.
Hudson-Odoi curled home against Albania with less than five minutes of the match played
Despite recently getting caught up in the controversy of flouting lockdown rules to attend a party with Chelsea and England pal Fikayo Tomori, Hudson-Odoi has retained his composure and got his head down.
‘My experience of Callum is he’s been in a tough place and is coming out of it,’ Boothroyd said of Hudson-Odoi’s return from a ruptured Achilles.
‘He has just got on with it and has been really positive in the group. Everyone in our squad has to think if they can make the seniors next summer.’
Yet, to make a serious claim for a place in the senior England ranks ahead of the delayed European championships, Hudson-Odoi must start playing week-in week-out for Chelsea, no questions asked.
And now, as if right on cue, that opportunity may well have arrived.
The stars looked to be aligning as Hudson-Odoi returns to form at a time when Chelsea find themselves struggling with absences.
Frank Lampard needs to depend on Hudson-Odoi with his team missing key senior players
Christian Pulisic is still unable to shake off a troublesome lingering hamstring injury, with manager Frank Lampard confirming the American will not be at his disposal to select against Newcastle this weekend.
Chelsea are also set to await the return of big money summer signing Kai Havertz, who is recovering after showing a positive test for coronavirus.
With big, impactful names missing from his ranks, Lampard must now turn to his options.
At no point since his return from injury has Hudson-Odoi had a clearer run at the first team, and a real opportunity to bring his international form to domestic matters and force himself back into Chelsea reckoning.
The Blues currently find themselves fifth in the league table, three points adrift of leaders Leicester City and two points behind both Liverpool and Tottenham.
A saviour is needed to provide the final third spark and, judging by his previous emergence onto the scene, Hudson-Odoi will be all too happy to oblige.
Christian Pulisic is still on the comeback trail while Kai Havertz tested positive for Covid-19
The Bayern factor
It seems strange to mention the need to break into a team… in order to leave.
But this element is a real point of consideration for Hudson-Odoi, who has been desperately tracked by Bayern Munich for several years.
The German giants remain entirely convinced they can extract the best from Hudson-Odoi, and see the Englishman as their answer to Sancho with bitter rivals Dortmund.
Bayern have twice come in for Hudson-Odoi, only to have the door immediately slammed shut in their face by Chelsea on both occasions.
Hudson-Odoi signed a fresh five-year deal at Stamford Bridge in September of 2019
In October Bayern chief Hasan Salihamidzic lifted the lid on the club’s failed move for the youngster, telling SportBild in Germany: ‘There are transfers that come to the point where you have to say: ‘We have to leave this immediately”
Bayern offered a £70m fee to loan Hudson-Odoi from Stamford Bridge, with the option to later secure a permanent deal. This was swiftly rejected.
Salihamidzic added: ‘It is all the more important that one thinks about alternatives or alternative paths right from the start.
‘We negotiated with Chelsea but there was no agreement. That happens.’
The player himself therefore has some big decisions to make, knowing that if he doesn’t play regularly for Chelsea the moves from clubs like Bayern will quickly dry up.
While Hudson-Odoi has previously stated his pride in remaining with Chelsea – after he signed a lucrative five-year contract extension in September 2019 – he will be aware that places are highly limited and Chelsea’s spending spree is far from over.
The youngster needs to carve a place in the seniors if European sides are to maintain interest
The 20-year-old is reported to be earning £120,000-per-week, though would see these wages increase even more were he to secure a switch to the Allianz Arena.
‘I’ve been a Chelsea player since I was eight and this is the right club for me to be at,’ said as the ink was still drying on his fresh contract.
Now, back fit, healthy and fully firing, Hudson-Odoi must firmly grasp what could be the chance of a footballing lifetime.