Callum Hudson-Odoi, one of English soccer’s top young talents, is stalling on signing a new contract at Chelsea and it’s easy to see why.
He’s hardly feeling the love of his manager right now.
Heading into the resumption of the Premier League last weekend, the 18-year-old Hudson-Odoi was coming off the most momentous week of his career. He had just made his first start for England’s national team — before he had even started a Premier League game — in a European Championship qualifier at Montenegro in which he was racially abused by a section of home fans.
Surely it was a moment for Chelsea manager Maurizio Sarri to publicly praise the winger. Keep his confidence high. Give him some encouragement.
Instead, all Hudson-Odoi got was a far-from-glowing critique from Sarri, who said he barely watched any of the England-Montenegro game because he “had 14 players in the national teams.”
“Callum didn’t start very well on the right,” Sarri said. “He did very well on the left immediately in his first action. But I know very well he prefers to play on the left.”
Sarri also said he wouldn’t be talking to his young player about the racist abuse he received because “I am not able to solve it.”
To top it all off, Hudson-Odoi remained an unused substitute as Chelsea labored before scoring two late goals to snatch a 2-1 win at Cardiff on Sunday.
Maybe their relationship is closer than Sarri is making out in front of the media. If it isn’t, though, he is playing a dangerous game in his dealings with a highly rated talent who is wanted by Bayern Munich — and, reportedly, Manchester United — and whose contract has only 18 months left. Hudson-Odoi has already rejected the offer of a new deal by Chelsea.
Sarri says he thinks Hudson-Odoi will stay at Chelsea and is happy with the youngster’s “evolution” at the club given he has played 18 competitive matches already this season, as opposed to four in all of last season. With Eden Hazard, Willian and Pedro Rodriguez as Chelsea’s other wingers, Hudson-Odoi has some high-profile teammates to oust.
Still, it might not do any harm for Sarri to make Hudson-Odoi feel slightly more wanted, at least publicly.
Fulham marked April Fool’s Day on Monday by announcing that it would become the first Premier League club to use double digits on the back on their jerseys .
Ryan Sessegnon and Aleksandar Mitrovic posed for a photo with grins on their faces, holding up their uniforms with “03” and “09,” respectively, on them.
For the team’s suffering fans, this might not be the best time for jokes.
After losing 2-0 to Manchester City on Saturday for an eighth straight league defeat, Fulham will be relegated on Tuesday if it loses at Watford.
Fulham would be the second team to be demoted after Huddersfield, which tied the record for the earliest relegation from the Premier League after its fate was sealed on Saturday.
It has been a difficult first season back in the top division for Fulham, which has had three managers — Slavisa Jokanovic, Claudio Ranieri and now Scott Parker — and seen its offseason spending spree of million fail to have an effect.
As if the title race needed more intrigue, both Liverpool and Manchester City saw their star player this season come off the field with an injury problem over the weekend.
Sergio Aguero, the Premier League’s top scorer with 19 goals, lasted only 56 minutes of City’s win at Fulham before asking to come off. City manager Pep Guardiola said Aguero would be assessed after saying he “felt something.”
Then on Sunday, Liverpool defender Virgil van Dijk, possibly the favorite for English soccer’s Player of the Year award, hurt his ankle in the 2-1 win over Tottenham. He had a big ice pack on his ankle after the game and Liverpool manager Juergen Klopp said it was too early to say if it was serious.
Liverpool holds a two-point lead at the top of the standings, but City has a game in hand and plays Cardiff at home on Wednesday.
More than a decade after his brief and ill-fated tenure with England’s national team, Steve McClaren is still struggling to rebuild his reputation in soccer management.
McClaren was fired by Queens Park Rangers on Monday with the club in 17th place in England’s 24-team second division. It was his eighth managerial job since his 16-month spell with England ended in November 2007.
Steve Douglas is at www.twitter.com/sdouglas80