Chelsea winger Callum Hudson-Odoi likes to do things differently.

When you hand in a transfer request at the age of 18 after Bayern Munich bid £35m for you, it suggests a willingness to broaden your horizons, and not accept the status quo.

Which is partly why the now 21-year-old is speaking to BBC Sport from Bayer Leverkusen where he is on a season-long loan after what he calls “ups and downs” over the past few years at Stamford Bridge.

“There were a lot of times when things were very good and you enjoy every part of it,” he said before Leverkusen’s Champions League trip to Atletico Madrid on Wednesday. “And there were times and you think, ‘what have I done wrong? Or what am I doing wrong not to be playing?’

“Sometimes it was difficult and frustrating. You are sitting on the bench or might not even be in the squad and then you’re like ‘what on earth have I done to deserve that?’

“I train well every day, I give my all in every game, but then I don’t get picked. Of course if there are other players doing well in your position, they should get picked as well, but at the same time, you always want to fight for your position and have a fair chance.”

Hudson-Odoi is yet to have a conversation with new Blues boss Graham Potter, who has enjoyed an unbeaten start to his reign. The winger’s Chelsea contract lasts until the summer of 2024, only a year after the Leverkusen loan ends.

He said: “I don’t know what the future holds. Obviously, at the end of the season I’ll go back to Chelsea regardless and we’ll see what happens from there. That’s where I’ve always been since I was a kid.

“I always look at stuff as a learning curve, never negative. It’s always a learning factor for what you do next time.

“My main focus right now is being here and helping the team as much as possible. I don’t see that far down the line yet.”

Bundesliga move ‘always at back of my mind’

Xabi Alonso and Callum Hudson-Odoi
Hudson-Odoi says he is learning from the ‘hands-on’ approach of new manager Xabi Alonso

Hudson-Odoi’s story is typical of Chelsea’s academy graduates in recent years. Having joined as an eight-year old, he made his first-team debut aged 17 and showed glimpses of his talent when introduced from the bench.

But becoming a first-team regular has been harder to achieve, and has not been helped by having four managers in five years. Potter would have been a fifth, but Hudson-Odoi had already left for his loan stint at Leverkusen.

Bayern’s interest in 2019 came after Hudson-Odoi was part of England’s Under-17 World Cup-winning squad. At that point he had yet to make a Premier League start, and his senior England debut came before that club milestone.

Former Chelsea manager Maurizio Sarri pleaded patience and in the end, Hudson-Odoi was rewarded with a five-year contract on more than £120,000 a week.

But the ambition was made clear. Here was a player not content to sit on the bench whatever the financial gains and there has been no shortage of interest in the youngster since, despite suffering an Achilles injury in 2019.

After former manager Thomas Tuchel was appointed in January 2021, he appeared to be in favour, even if there were more injury problems last season. But being left out of the squad at the start of this season signalled a change was due.

Hudson-Odoi says a move to Germany “had always been at the back of my mind” and he followed in the footsteps of former Borussia Dortmund and now Manchester United winger Jadon Sancho, who he spoke to before making the Leverkusen move in August.

Chelsea team-mate and former Leverkusen forward Kai Havertz was also consulted. “He was explaining to me how the games and the league are here, the facilities, and the people. He motivated me and persuaded me to come here,” Hudson-Odoi says.

After a summer in the gym, a more bulky Hudson-Odoi is now getting what he wants: game time. He has made 10 appearances, including eight consecutive starts at Leverkusen.

“I’ve always looked to the Bundesliga and thought to myself it would be a good place to try something new, a different experience,” he tells BBC Sport.

“It makes you mature much quicker, especially when you have to do things here by yourself. I’m trying to cook a bit more and have been watching different stuff or I’ll call my mum over FaceTime and ask her if I’m doing things correctly.

“Game time was the whole reason why I came. I wanted to develop and be a bit more responsible about stuff.

“I think you could come over here and think ‘OK, you’ve won some trophies at Chelsea’, but you don’t want to have that mentality. You want to win more and try to help the team.

“At Chelsea, I felt like I was being a bit safe and not really wanting to drive past players but now I feel the confidence of doing all that is back.”

Callum Hudson-Odoi
Appearances in the second half of last season became infrequent for Hudson-Odoi

World Cup hope?

Decisions about his Chelsea future can wait. There is also an intriguing situation bubbling about his international career.

Talks about playing for Ghana at the World Cup have taken place given Hudson-Odoi’s Ghanaian heritage. Both his mum and dad are from there and he visits the country when he can.

Although he has already played three times for England, new Fifa rules mean that if those appearances happen before a player is 21, which is the case with Hudson Odoi, he can switch allegiance.

Asked if talks had taken place with Ghana, Hudson-Odoi cracked a smile and said: “Nothing I would say at the moment on camera, I would love to tell you, but I couldn’t say.

“At the moment it’s more just focusing on the best I can do here. You never know what will happen in the future.

“Obviously the Ghana-England situation has been on my mind for a while. But I think right now it was more of the focus of coming here, really getting myself back into shape, playing a lot of games and just feeling like myself. Right now my mind is just open.”

Several teams could benefit from that, but the only one that definitely will is Leverkusen.

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