What went wrong for Callum Hudson-Odoi at Chelsea? From £70m Bayern Munich bids to joining Nottingham Forest for just £5m

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Once the jewel of the club's academy, the winger's career at Stamford Bridge has come to a sad end

It's almost unimaginable now that a club of Bayern Munich's stature would be interested in forgotten Chelsea man Callum Hudson-Odoi, but that was the reality in 2019. A two-year pursuit would culminate in a rejected loan offer that included a whopping £70 million ($90m) obligation to buy, with the Blues steadfast in their resolve to hold on to one of the jewels of their academy.

Two-and-a-half years on, and that resolve has disintegrated - to the extent that Chelsea have negotiated the 22-year-old's exit for less than £10m. Their west London neighbours Fulham lodged a £4m ($5.1m) bid some weeks ago, and now the Blues have accepted an offer from Nottingham Forest that will see the England international leave for an initial £3m ($3.8,m), with another £2m ($2.5m) available in add-ons.

But was has provoked such a sharp decline in Hudson-Odoi's value to his boyhood club? GOAL examines the reasons behind the winger's sad fall from grace...

  1. His Achilles heel
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    His Achilles heel

    Niggling fitness issues often hampered Hudson-Odoi in the early years of his senior career, but two much more serious injuries effectively derailed him.

    The 2018-19 season had been something of a breakthrough campaign for the then-18-year-old, who had shone in a Europa League campaign that would end in the Blues lifting the trophy. It was in that period that Bayern began to circle, with Chelsea rebuffing a £40m ($51.5m) approach in January 2019 despite a transfer request from the player.

    However, having earned a regular Premier League place, an Achilles rupture in April 2019 saw his progress cruelly halted as he was sidelined for five months.

    Then, after some strong form in 2020-21 and a second rejected approach from Bayern, his season was brought to an abrupt end by a two-month layoff by a hamstring injury, while his Achilles issues returned in 2022 and led to a nerve issue that left Hudson-Odoi barely able to kick a ball.

    Speaking after making his recovery, he said: "It was a weird one. It was a neurological thing where I had a tweaked nerve in my back and it stemmed all the way down through my body, so it then became difficult for me to retain muscle. There was no power really in my legs and everything was like ‘woah’. I was trying to pass the ball 10 yards but I had no power and I couldn’t even do it."

  2. Never fully trusted

    Never fully trusted

    Hudson-Odoi's case has never been aided by those recurring injury problems, but he has also never truly nailed down a starting place at Stamford Bridge since his breakthrough five years ago.

    Although he was initially given minutes when Thomas Tuchel replaced Frank Lampard as Chelsea head coach in early 2021, those became increasingly infrequent as time went on and he was on the fringes by the start of the 2021-22 campaign.

    Speaking about that period last year, he said: "There were times and you think, 'what have I done wrong? Or what am I doing wrong not to be playing?' Sometimes it was difficult and frustrating. You are sitting on the bench or might not even be in the squad and then you're like 'what on earth have I done to deserve that?'

    "I train well every day, I give my all in every game, but then I don't get picked. Of course, if there are other players doing well in your position, they should get picked as well, but at the same time, you always want to fight for your position and have a fair chance."

  3. Out of position
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    Out of position

    Hudson-Odoi was made to suffer under Tuchel in particular. The German tactician's preferred tactical set-up, with three at the back and two inverted attacking midfielders behind a striker, didn't leave much space for a traditional winger who is at his best when hugging the touchline.

    Indeed, the academy graduate was often forced to deputise at right wing-back. Although he admitted that playing there helped him improve defensively, he was also open about that not being his preferred role.

    Speaking in January 2022, he said: "I’d definitely say I prefer more-attacking positions for myself, as a winger or a No.10 kind of player. Obviously I like to be direct and try to create scoring opportunities for the team, hopefully try to score some myself. Playing in that position I’m more comfortable and I feel more free while playing there as well.

    "It’s definitely a different position [wing-back], definitely harder, so I’d say definitely an attacking position is what I prefer."

  4. Hugely underwhelming loan
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    Hugely underwhelming loan

    Those frustrations likely contributed to the wide man's decision to seek an exit from Stamford Bridge last summer. Having witnessed the success of fellow English youngsters Jadon Sancho and Jude Bellingham in the Bundesliga, he opted for a season-long loan to Bayer Leverkusen. It was a deal that provoked excitement for a potential resurgence in Germany.

    However, he was unable to emulate the success of his compatriots. Inconsistent performances saw him lose his place under head coach Xabi Alonso by the turn of the year, and he suffered the ignominy of being hooked at half-time twice in the space of three league appearances.

    Speaking in March, Leverkusen's managing director Simon Rolfes called on him to improve: "He has to show consistency, go into dangerous areas and become a goal threat himself. He has to show a lot more presence. He can do a lot more there. He has the technical qualities for it."

    However, there was no change in his fortunes as he made just one appearance between March and May.

  5. Lowered ceiling

    Lowered ceiling

    If things had gone differently, Hudson-Odoi's time in Germany might have resurrected his Chelsea career, but instead it was seemingly the death knell for his time at Stamford Bridge. Those big-money approaches from Bayern Munich are now a thing of the distant past, and he is preparing to take what is arguably a step down and backwards by joining Forest.

    Although injuries have undoubtedly played a major role, it has become evident in recent seasons that Hudson-Odoi's ceiling has lowered somewhat, and he is unlikely to become the elite-level winger many predicted he would when he first made his breakthrough - a familiar tale for countless young players down the years who failed to fulfil their early potential.

    Still just 22, a permanent departure to a Premier League club could be exactly what he needs to restore his reputation - playing regularly, finding consistency and getting back to what he does best.