Rio Ferdinand believes this season is make or break for Callum Hudson-Odoi if he is to affirm himself as a Chelsea regular.
The 20-year-old has made 14 appearances since Thomas Tuchel took over in January, with the majority of his displays coming from the more unfamiliar position of right-wing-back.
He deputised for the suspended Reece James in the Blues’ 3-0 home victory against Aston Villa, in what was his first start of the season.
While his performance against Dean Smith’s side was respectable, the former Manchester United defender feels Hudson-Odoi’s Chelsea future could be finite if he does not carve himself a place in the team this season.
“This has got to be his breakthrough season where he really cements his place in that team if he has a chance of staying there and being a real Chelsea player for many years to come because he’s got undoubted talent,” Ferdinand said on his Youtube channel.
“Hudson-Odoi has been promising and threatening for a couple of seasons now.”
“He hasn’t really transferred the talent he showed as a kid, in the youth teams or the teams coming up.
“There was a real buzz around him. He hasn’t transferred that consistently yet into this Chelsea team.”
Hudson-Odoi has certainly shown impressive glimpses of his talent with the West Londoners, but he has struggled to put together a string of matches.
Not all of this is down to his failures, as a nasty Achilles injury in the later stages of Maurizio Sarri’s tenure halted his progress severely.
He made 32 Premier League appearances during Frank Lampard’s reign as Chelsea manager, but he only managed three goals and six assists under the Blues legend.
There were also reports the youngster was furious at being denied a loan move to Borussia Dortmund.
The Germans approached Chelsea in the closing stages of the transfer window in the hope they could sign the youngster on loan, but the reigning Champions League holders turned down their advances.
In the following weeks Tuchel described the choice to keep Hudson-Odoi as a “very easy decision” as he did not want to lose any of the main players in his 18-man squad.
“We have spoken. It was a very easy decision for me to make on the last day of the transfer period,” said Tuchel.
“We cannot let a player who is in the 18, 19-man squad leave.
“He is able to play as a right wing-back, a left wing-back in the two No.10 positions.
“He knows the group; we know him very well. There was no chance to say yes on the last day.
“Callum has to overcome the gap between training and games. I see a stronger Callum every day in training, and he needs to overcome this gap and show this kind of determination that he shows in training.”
Chelsea travel to Russia to face Zenit St Petersburg in their opening Group H match of the Champions League.
They were drawn with the seven-time Russia champions, Juventus, and Malmo.