Maurizio Sarri was pleased with Chelsea’s resounding first-leg victory over Dynamo Kiev but described the furore surrounding Callum Hudson-Odoi as “very dangerous” and was reluctant to speak about him.
Chelsea took a big step towards the quarter-finals of the Europa League by winning 3-0 at Stamford Bridge, where Hudson-Odoi came on as a late substitute and scored the third goal.
Amid much speculation over the future of the teenager, who is wanted by Bayern Munich, he has been largely overlooked by Sarri – much to the frustration of many Blues fans.
The head coach insisted ahead of Thursday’s game that Hudson-Odoi is in his plans – and also accused the media of putting too much pressure on the youngster.
And Sarri issued the same message after Hudson-Odoi was cheered on to the pitch by the home supporters, who want to see him feature more often and greeted his goal with glee.
Asked what Hudson-Odoi needs to do to convince him he deserves more game time, Sarri said: “He doesn’t need to do anything to convince me because I am already convinced he is a very great player.”
The Italian added: “In my opinion, a player at 18 years old cannot be at the top. He needs to improve because he will be able to arrive to the top only at 22 or 23 years old, like every other player.
“So now I think that we need (him) to improve without the pressure of the media and without the pressure of the fans.
“He is in my mind for every match. I think that in England he is the only (player born in) 2000 with 16 matches in the first team. He is the only one.
“I think to have this pressure when you are 18 is very dangerous for a player. You can lose the target – when you are 18 the target is to improve.
“It’s dangerous for him. And I don’t like to speak about him for this reason.”
Hudson-Odoi scored after Pedro’s opener and Willian’s brilliant free-kick had already put Chelsea in a strong position.
A third goal means they will be overwhelming favourites ahead of a second leg in Kiev that might otherwise have been a tricky encounter.
“The result is a good result. To not concede a goal at home is very important in this competition,” said Sarri.
“Now we need to be careful. We have to go there for the second leg with the right level of application.”