Earlier it broke that Gaël Kakuta has signed a four and a half year contract extension with Chelsea, ending six months of relentless speculation on the Frenchmen’s future. Why is it though that Gaël’s signing has come as such as a relief? We look at the career of Gaël so far and what the future holds for the young man.
Kakuta made a spectacularly meteoric rise through junior levels in France and earned a move to Ligue 1 side RC Lens, whom he’d be attached to for 8 years. Kakuta was labelled a phenomenon by all who had seen him, with his captivating displays showing ability unseen for one so young. This is just as well with Chelsea’s French scout Guy Hillion looking on. Hillion does not settle for good, if you show him a Rolex he’ll want better, he seeks the best and in Kakuta he had found the best. Chelsea were quick to act on the advice of Hillion and Kakuta was soon Chelsea’s player, with Lens unable to stop this as Kakuta was yet to sign a pre-contract agreement, or professional contract of any sort.
It was only on September 3rd 2009 that Kakuta was thrust into the spotlight as FIFA’s Dispute Resolution Chamber (DRC) ruled that Kakuta had breached contract with Lens and subsequently issued a quite ridiculous transfer ban, coupled with numerous fines. The sanctions were inevitably overturned but Kakuta was made into a media fascination, but Chelsea didn’t need anyone to tell them they had a star way before this, neither did many fans. There would have been worries about him settling into a new country, a new lifestyle, a new way of playing football but Gaël quickly dispelled these. If he’s individualistic performances and persona had not been fully noticed in the sheltered surroundings of youth league football, they certainly were in Chelsea’s FA Youth Cup run. Dazzling displays from Gaël led Chelsea to a historic Youth Cup Final, in which not even his goal was enough to prevent a Manchester City side, including Daniel Sturridge complete a close victory. Kakuta was certainly on the path to the first team, but it was to be one of the longest and unpredictable paths imaginable.
Few know that Kakuta got his first sniff of first team football some 7 months before the furore of the scandal hit his career. Scolari, although perhaps not as tactically astute as Carlo also saw potential and was brave enough to include a 17 year old Kakuta on the bench for a Premier League game against Stoke. Of course Scolari’s managerial shortcomings led to him getting the sack leaving Gaël back to square one all over again. Kakuta’s career hit the rocks just a month on from that experience with the senior squad as he fractured his ankle in a game against Glenn Hoddle’s Academy. Kakuta’s long rehabilitation begun and he reached full fitness in time to try and impress Carlo Ancelotti who was determined to develop the exciting crop of youngsters he had at his disposal. Kakuta’s effort and determination to get fit was admirable, and rewarded with a starting berth in a Champions League dead contest against lowly Cypriot’s APOEL Nicosia. It was a bad night for Chelsea as they drew 2-2 at home, but a great night for Gaël, as Carlo highlighted after the game :
"The only positive of the night was Gaël Kakuta. He played very well, he showed his fantastic talent. He trains very well every day and will be the future of Chelsea." Carlo Ancelotti
Kakuta was very much an option now for Ancelotti, and he made his Premier League debut to a rapturous Stamford Bridge welcome against Wolverhampton Wanderers soon enough. It was 13 months to this day that Gaël made an instant impact on the Premier League with his confidence and ability outshining a marvellous 5-0 win that day. The media hype predictably followed this performance, but the media attention were quick to once again knock Gaël as he missed the decisive penalty in a League Cup loss to Blackburn. The fact that Gaël took the 5th penalty and chose to blast it showed everything you needed to know about the character of Kakuta however. A fit and firing squad meant Kakuta was forced to go back to the reserves throughout Chelsea’s double winning season. Kakuta often looked timid or uninterested, perhaps worried of getting injured but it just seemed he knew he was too good for that level. Lens scout Joachim Marx said of Kakuta "Perhaps one criticism was that he didn't try very hard sometimes in training - because he didn't need to! He could already do everything.". You got the feeling that a similar thing was happening with reserve team football and that he needed to be challenged.
Rumours about Kakuta’s future surfaced during the European u-19 Championships, as Kakuta displays of artistry and class earned him many plaudits. His performances mirrored those that were seen in the European u-17 Championships just 2 years before, the performances (and YouTube videos made from them) that excited Chelsea fans around the globe and first gave an insight into what a special talent Gaël could be. Kakuta was the main man for France, the talisman, the pulse of the team. This was something he took into his stride and on home soil led France to the u-19 Championships and won the Golden Ball (Best Player) Award to go alongside it.
Having seen such marvellous performances in a competition that attracts scouts from every big team in every big nation Kakuta was predictably subject to rumours. With appearances few and far between so far in the 2010/11 season these rumours gathered pace with little solid indication as to Gaël’s future aspirations. Gaël has now though pledged his future to Chelsea, and in an interview expressed his future intentions.
"What I had in my head was to stay here at Chelsea, since I signed here when I was 18 years old. That's why I came here, to play for Chelsea, to make my way to the first team." Gael Kakuta- Source: Chelsea TV
Kakuta puts himself across as a well grounded and determined individual and I desperately want him to make it as Stamford Bridge as much as he does, all that remains to be seen now is whether the Chelsea Politburo feel a loan move to France or England would be beneficial.