There hasn’t been much to smile about at the Bay Arena in the opening weeks of the new Bundesliga season with a first-round exit from the Pokal at minnows Elversberg and three successive losses in the league to start off. However, the signing of English winger Callum Hudson-Odoi from Chelsea should raise the mood at the Rhineland club and provide trainer Gerardo Seoane with more attacking options as he looks to get things back on track.
Hudson-Odoi has always been on the radar as a talented youngster with huge potential. Having progressed through the Chelsea youth system, he broke into the first-team squad in the 2017-18 season making two brief substitute appearances. The following season brought ten appearances and his first goal for the club against Brighton, but the age-old problem of youth trying to break through at a club as big as Chelsea was apparent.
Bayern Munich spotted the talent and in 2019 thought they could possibly lure him with the prospect of more regular football. Chelsea however rejected three bids from the Bavarians with the final offer reported to be €25 million. A year later they tried Chelsea’s resolve again with a loan bid that included a £70 million option to buy clause.
Again, Chelsea were adamant they were keeping the player and although more first-team appearances have been forthcoming since then, it’s always been a case of back-up player/ substitute/ give the youth a little run out in the unimportant games.
This season however with massive investment coming in from new owners and Thomas Tuchel showing little sign of moving Hudson-Odoi up the Stamford Bridge hierarchy, a loan move is seen as the perfect option.
A perfect fit?
Hudson-Odoi is a talented and versatile attacker (right footed) who can play wide on either flank, as a wide number 10 or, as he has shown under Thomas Tuchel, at right wing-back. With Chelsea’s system playing wing backs, Hudson-Odoi was not required to play as an out-and-out touchline hugging winger and operated more centrally as a two behind the striker.
Bayer Leverkusen’s 4-2-3-1 system saw new signing Adam Hlozek start as the left sided player of the front three with Moussa Diaby on the right and Sardar Azmoun central behind Patrik Schick. Czech Hlozek has struggled in the role as he prefers to play more centrally. Moussa Diaby can switch to the left, but Leverkusen have limited options to replace him on the right side. Both Amine Adli and Karim Bellarabi are long-term injury absentees, so moving Diaby to relieve Hlozek on the left solves one problem but creates another.
Enter the solution- Hudson-Odoi.
The move had looked in danger of collapsing with Leverkusen insisting on a clause that gave them a right-to-buy at the end of the season, Chelsea however still rate the player too highly to allow him to leave like that and have insisted on a straight loan.
“In Callum Hudson-Odoi we have signed a fast and assertive winger. He has everything he needs to help us immediately” sporting director Simon Rolfes explained as he unveiled the player. “Callum has played well over 100 competitive games for Chelsea, proven himself in the Premier League and also in the Champions League. With him, our attacking game gets another special component. We are very happy that this transfer worked out.”
The 21-year-old added: “The move to Germany is really exciting for me, and I can still play in the Champions League with Bayer 04 Leverkusen. This combination is really attractive and I’m curious about the club, the fans, and the Bundesliga. Kai Havertz only told me good things about Bayer 04 in the Chelsea dressing room.”