Yesterday we reported that Chelsea had rejected Bayern Munich’s £35 million (€39m) bid for Callum Hudson-Odoi, making it seem very unlikely that Bayern might sign the promising English youngster in the winter transfer window. Chelsea seems determined to keep the player at all costs, even if Bayern makes an offer the West-London club an offer they theoretically couldn’t refuse.
Is this a blessing in disguise? If Hudson-Odoi ends up in the red and white jersey at the end of January, it won’t be for less than €39 million. He would be our third-most-expensive signing of all time, and that would be for a player who has played a total of 51 minutes in the Premier League this season. There are good reasons why the risk for Hudson-Odoi is simply too high.
Bayern’s checkered history with foreign youngsters
Bayern’s history of buying foreign talents is a significant cause for concern. Bayern has bought five players aged 17-20 for over €10 million: Breno, Xherdan Shaqiri, Kingsley Coman, Renato Sanches, and Alphonso Davies. Breno was bought at the beginning of the 2007/08 season, when Bayern decided to break existing transfer records after a horrible 2006/07 season. Expectations were naturally high because of Breno’s €12 million price tag, the highest Bayern had ever spent for a player under 20 at the time. That pressure may have played a role in Breno’s spectacular meltdown in 2011 and subsequent arrest.
Xherdan Shaqiri was another player who failed to break through as expected in Munich. His time in Munich ended neither in tragedy nor economic loss for Bayern, but he never realized his undeniable potential at Säbener Strasse. Renato Sanches’s time at Bayern Munich is not over, so as of now we can’t tell with certainty whether he will succeed or not. But Sanches’s first season with Bayern was far from successful, and it was followed up by a disastrous loan spell at Swansea. He has rebounded somewhat, but remains far from the starting lineup.
Why have these young talents failed to reach their full potential at Bayern? I would argue that the atmosphere in Bayern is different from any other club in Germany. Bayern is currently Germany’s only elite football club, in the same category as Real Madrid, Barcelona, Paris Saint-Germain or Juventus in terms of ambition. Bayer is expected to win every match and be a major contender in every competition. There’s no other team in Germany where winning the league is not enough to declare the season a success. In my view, this creates a dog-eat-dog atmosphere in the dressing room where no one gets any special treatment, especially young talents. In Dortmund, by contrast, the atmosphere is more welcoming. That, along with less pressure to constantly win, could explain why signings such as Christian Pulisic, Jadon Sancho, and Ousmane Dembele have proven to be so successful in Yellow and Black.
Kingsley Coman, the exception
At first glance, the exception to Bayern’s uninspiring history of buying foreign youngsters, Kingsley Coman, speaks in favor of signing Hudson-Odoi. Coman had spent his youth in elite football clubs and academies. He grew up in the PSG academy, which is one of the best in France, and was brought to Bayern on loan from Juventus. As a 19-year-old, Coman had already experienced three of the biggest clubs in the world, and this could be one explanation as to why he has enjoyed far greater success at Bayern than the others.
Unlike Breno, Shaqiri, and Sanches, Callum Hudson-Odoi would not come to Bayern from a club considered its inferior in economic or competitive terms. Chelsea is a newly created powerhouse. Hudson-Odoi, like Coman, knows what it’s like to grow up in the youth system of a team who requires nothing less than first place.
Is this comparison a valid reason for signing Callum Hudson-Odoi? There are similarities between Coman and Hudson-Odoi — but Bayern did not buy Coman at first. Coman signed with Bayern on a two-year loan for €7 million with a purchase option for another €21 million. The transfer did not require the same financial commitment required to sign Hudson-Odoi. Nor has the Coman transfer suggested enough that Bayern should focus their transfer fund on foreign teenagers. His start at Munich has been bright and he is still only 22. However, as of yet, none of Coman’s coaches in Bayern has given him a regular place within the starting eleven.
To conclude, now that Chelsea has refused Bayern’s fourth bid, the club should stop pursuing Hudson-Odoi. The amount does not seem worth it for a player who has played in just four Premier League games total. Nor do I believe that buying a foreign talent for that amount is proven to be a winning formula for Bayern. Chelsea might be more willing to negotiate this summer, and I believe Bayern would be well advised to put the negotiations on hold till then.