Position: Attacking Midfielder
Date of Birth: 21st June 1991
Place of Birth: Lille, France
Previous Club(s): RC Lens
Perhaps of all Chelsea’s young prospects, the light shining brightest is young Frenchman Gael Kakuta. Highly rated in France before he joined in July 2007, his first season in England could only be described as spectacular, and even then that might not be superlative enough. To be blunt, he has been by far and away the outstanding Under 18 player of the season and has made an impact at Reserve level too.
Coming through the RC Lens academy in his native France, the Lille-born youngster could easily have seen Coupe de France time in 07/08 if he was to stay, but the allure and attraction of Chelsea was enough for the youngster to come over. A fan of Steven Gerrard, perhaps the influence of playing in the same country and the dream of playing against him was also a factor. An attacking central midfielder who is brilliant in the hole behind the striker, he mainly lined up on the left of a 4-3-3 attack in pre-season friendlies, showing excellent skill and creativity but little by way of cutting edge or end product.
Speaking absolutely no English and having no native French tongues in the immediate academy setup wouldn’t have helped that, but once competitive action was underway and Gael was set into his favoured ‘number 10′ role, the fireworks began. Week after week his name would either appear on the scoresheet or in the assists column, something summed up perfectly by the 5-1 win over Charlton in November of that year. Gael scored one (a spectacular 30 yard effort) and created the other four as he put in one of the most undefendable performances Under 18 scouts have ever seen.
The FA Youth Cup was also kind in 07/08, Gael proving to be the star of the tournament, notching a hat-trick at Port Vale and a stunning 50 yard solo run goal at Aston Villa on the way to the Final. The prestigious nature of the tournament ensured that people were talking about a boy Chelsea fans had been noticing ever since he’d scored on his Reserve debut back in October as a late sub.
Not the tallest, he primarily relies on an elusive game, hard to pick up and hard to track. His skill level is pretty much unmatched in the Chelsea academy, and with some of the quick feet in the group that’s quite an honour. Whilst not entirely one-footed he by far prefers his left and should work on improving his right, but there’s so much more to like than criticise. His vision is superb, encompassed by his fantastic assists record. When he shoots, he hits the ball as hard as any player and as hard as you’d like from a professional footballer. Spectacular long range efforts against Birmingham, West Ham and Charlton are testament to the sheer power he packs in his shots. Then there’s his dribbling. He has deceptively quick pace, and combined with great ball control and agility, he’s hard to get off the ball.
He’s not perfect, naturally. He could be stronger, have a better right foot, and incredibly can become a better decision maker. With a combined goals and assists total higher than his total appearances, his first season in Blue is a complete and total success. The next step must be to make a real Reserve impact and who knows, he could be closer to the first team than many people imagine. Whilst he’s not a once-in-a-generation teenage talent like a Messi or a Bojan, he could be capable of producing against men very soon.
This year hasn’t been Gael’s at all. After a fantastic start to his career in England, his start to the season was hampered by an ankle injury which didn’t clear up until October. When he got back playing he was his typically brilliant self, turning in stunning performances, notably away to West Ham in the league and throughout Chelsea’s short FA Youth Cup run. He worked his way into Luiz Felipe Scolari’s plans and was an unused substitute in the FA Cup at home to Ipswich.
Then disaster struck in February. In a friendly against the Glenn Hoddle Academy an innocuous challenge caught Gael awkwardly and he suffered a fractured dislocated ankle, ending his season and potentially keeping him on the sidelines until the start of next season. Frank Arnesen is hopeful of his swift recovery, but at any rate it’d be a massive shame should it impact on his magnificent potential.