Chelsea’s Callum Hudson-Odoi, indeed, has lots of food for thought, following his trip to Ghana earlier in the summer as a freshly-minted European champion.
He might have ended the 2020/21 season on a high at club level, but the 20-year-old is only watching the ongoing European Championship on television, some 20 months after receiving his third England cap.
Considering how little time some of his peers — fellow members of a rich crop of young English talent — have spent on the pitch as Gareth Southgate has experimented with the luxury available to him, Hudson-Odoi wouldn’t be too wrong in assuming he’d have to wait quite a while for his fourth cap.
That fourth cap could prove crucial, though, since it would render him ineligible for the other country he could still turn out for, Ghana. The current Black Stars team isn’t as well-placed to challenge at the level England is, but it offers more guarantees — in terms of appearances, at least, if not major honours.
“Hudson-Odoi is an outstanding world-class footballer and he is only going to get better,” says George Boateng, who enjoyed a more-than-decent career in the Premier League years ago, “and it will be a shame if he only ends up having 5 or 6 caps for England and doesn’t make a final tournament like a World Cup or European Championship ever in his career.”
Boateng would know, wouldn’t he?
A fine midfielder in his time, Boateng — presently employed as an U-23 coach at Premier League club Aston Villa, for which he played some of his best football — chose to commit his international future to the Netherlands, where he moved to as a kid, at the expense of Ghana.
At Hudson-Odoi’s age, Boateng skippered the Dutch U-21 team, but it wasn’t until after he turned 26 that his first senior call-up, from then Oranje boss Louis van Gaal, came. He didn’t get many more, though, racking up only four caps in all — just short of ‘5 or 6’ — by the time he retired.
Not nailing his colours to Ghana’s mast was a decision that eventually resulted in some regret, he concedes, and the counsel Boateng offers Hudson-Odoi reveals an awareness that he could have got so much more out of his international career had he gone with the west African nation in which he was born.
“[Hudson-Odoi has] the possibility of representing Ghana and playing at the World Cup stage in a team with top-class players and, if he plays for Ghana, it will send out a message to many other players who would want to play for Ghana,” he told Citi TV.
Ghana’s need for a player with Hudson-Odoi’s talents is obviously greater than England’s, but, as Boateng points out, reeling him in would also yield gains away the pitch. Ghana hasn’t successfully wooed many footballers born and/or bred in the West to play for the Black Stars; of those that have made the switch, there aren’t many famous names in the register.
Hudson-Odoi, by a country mile, would be the most high-profile, and if he turns his back on England, that would be a big shot in Ghana’s arm, reinforcing any proposal that national officials pitch to other players in the future.
That, ultimately, would be the most important reason why Ghana’s pursuit of Hudson-Odoi needs to end successfully: he holds the keys to opening many doors that the country might want to knock on for years to come.