Chelsea scout Piet de Visser has revealed that former manager Maurizio Sarri was instructed by his superiors at the club to play Callum Hudson-Odoi.
Hudson-Odoi broke onto the scene at Stamford Bridge last season with a series of dazzling performances earning rave reviews and serious interest from Bayern Munich.
One man who was not sold was Sarri with the Italian refusing to bow under pressure from the fanbase to hand the youngster a more prominent role in the team.
That changed towards the end of the season and, according to De Visser, it was because of instructions from Sarri’s bosses.
“I enjoy young players. Lampard gives six or seven boys of the academy opportunities. That is the future,” he told De Volkskrant.
“Reece James, a right back. You don’t know what you see. Hudson-Odoi, oooooo. He didn’t want to sign.
“I told Chelsea: never lose Hudson-Odoi. He will be the new Hazard. But Marina (Granovskaia) said: he doesn’t want to sign.
“And you know why not? Because Sarri didn’t play him. Then Sarri was instructed to deploy him, and he was their best player. And he signed for four years.”
Hudson-Odoi is now enjoying a starring role under manager Frank Lampard, who, limited by Chelsea’s transfer ban, has turned to the club’s youth prospects this season.
It’s a strategy that is so far working out with Hudson-Odoi one of several academy graduates, such as Fikayo Tomori and Tammy Abraham, who are now considered first-team stars.
Abraham, in particular, has been one of the shining lights of the early parts of this campaign with nine goals in 12 games, eight of which have come in the Premier League to make him the division’s top goalscorer alongside Sergio Agüero.
Things could have been very different for the 22-year-old, though, with De Visser revealing Chelsea were keen to sell at one point.
“Tammy Abraham, the striker. They wanted to sell him,” he admitted.
“Hey. That is the new attack leader for Chelsea. He was always a little lanky. Now he is getting a bit spicier.
“1.93 meters. Technical. He passes, scores, has an acceleration. And he plays. Not Batshuayi, not Giroud. No, Abraham.”
And what of Lampard, the prodigal son who has returned to Stamford Bridge to supervise the overhaul?
He’s undoubtedly impressed De Visser, who knew him from his playing days at the club and now hopes he stays as the manager for a similar extended period.
“Frank Lampard was like a brother to me when he was a Chelsea player. He and John Terry always took hold of me,” he added.
“Lampard is a special type. He doesn’t talk much, but he is a boss. He sees football well. I followed him at Derby County.
“I wrote to Marina: fantastic football. Derby lost the final of the play-offs for promotion just from Aston Villa.
“The coaches at the academy are among the best youth trainers in the world. Lampard took a few of them into his staff at Derby County. They are back now and know all those young boys. That works perfectly. I hope that Lampard stays for ten years.”