LONDON -- Gianfranco Zola said that Chelsea do not want to sell Callum Hudson-Odoi to Bayern Munich in January, and urged the 18-year-old to sign a new contract and show patience with his development.
Bayern have reportedly made an offer in excess of £30 million for Hudson-Odoi, who has just 18 months left to run on his current deal at Stamford Bridge and has so far declined to commit to an extension without assurances over a bigger first-team role at Chelsea.
Hudson-Odoi has made just six appearances in all competitions under Maurizio Sarri this season and Zola understands that the youngster would like to be more involved, but he is adamant that Chelsea value him every bit as much as Bayern.
"I know Bayern is very interested in him, but we're interested in him as well," Zola said of Hudson-Odoi. "We've proposed with him a contract for quite a while, so we're waiting to see what the player thinks about that. We certainly value him as a player.
"I know he hasn't played probably as much as he wanted, but this is down to the quality of the players in front of him. I've already told the player: 'It's not a waste of time. It's a time in which you can really get better, because you are pushed to do more.'
"I hope Callum is using this time in a wise way. It will do a very good thing for his football. Hopefully he'll sign a contract with us.
"For an 18-year-old, he's got a lot of potential. [But] you have to understand the journey's not finished. He's at an age where it's very important to keep a good attitude. You need to use these years to keep improving. It's not important [to be] playing straight away, playing 20 games, it's important to develop.
"That's what is very important for him. He has potential to become a top player. But he has to keep having an open mind to improve and get better day by day.
"I believe that we can help him, we can develop him. I believe he has a future in this club."
Zola confirmed that Hudson-Odoi is "very much likely" to start for Chelsea in the FA Cup third-round tie against Nottingham Forest on Saturday after returning to full training from a minor hamstring problem this week, with Pedro, Willian and Olivier Giroud all sidelined through injury and Eden Hazard set to be rested.
Reports of Hudson-Odoi potentially being sold have been met with widespread dismay by Chelsea supporters, who are desperate to see an academy star become a key member of the first team, and Zola insisted that Sarri and his coaching team share their desire to create a pathway.
"I understand that," Zola added. "We're also very happy to see a young player coming through and playing for the team. But you have to realise [that] to come through in a team like Chelsea is not easy for anybody, unless you are already an exceptional player.
"I'm not saying that Callum is not a fantastic player, but he's still in a period where he's showing a lot of potential, but he has to become a footballer. He has in front of him players that are mature, top players.
"It's about patience. I believe he has a bright future with us, but he will have to learn that right now for him it's important to get better and better every day. It doesn't have to be focused on 'why didn't I play? I should be playing 20 games.'
"It's important [to say]: 'What should I do to be better than Willian, than Pedro, than Hazard?' and focus every day working on that. If he does that with the qualities he's got I've no doubt he's going to be a fantastic player."
Ethan Ampadu is another young player in line to start for Chelsea against Forest, and Zola did not hold back in his praise of the 18-year-old.
"Ampadu is... when we spoke about Ampadu, myself and a lot of staff, everybody shares the same opinion: he's going to become an important player for this club," the Italian added. "He has intelligence, he has attitude. He has all the qualities, in my opinion, to become a top player.
"As a staff we value him a lot and when there is an opportunity he will get time."