When Nathan Ake arrived on the scene nearly a decade ago, excited eyes lit up within the Chelsea community.

Had they just discovered the next gem in Roman Abramovich’s diamond mine?

His debut season certainly suggested such a find.

Soccer - Barclays Premier League - Chelsea Training Session - Cobham Training Ground
(Photo by Darren Walsh/Chelsea FC via Getty Images)

Just a year after joining the youth set up from Feyenoord, Ake was promoted to first-team duties.

The defender made his first competitive start against Middlesbrough in the FA Cup’s fifth round.


A clean sheet and a commanding performance left many Blues supporters debating if they had landed the next big thing.

Ake then played 90 minutes in the second leg of Chelsea’s Europa League quarter-final clash with Rubin Kazan.

Although Rafa Benitez’s side lost 3-2 on the night, they edged past Kazan 5-4 on aggregate.

FC Rubin Kazan v Chelsea FC - UEFA Europa League Quarter Final: Second leg
(Photo by Dmitry Korotayev/Epsilon/Getty Images)

Benitez used the Dutchman again in the semi-final, but only as a substitute.

Another start on the final Premier League weekend at home to Everton rounded off a fine few months in senior football for Ake.

Unfortunately, the 26-year-old’s Chelsea career after that campaign began to spiral.

Not dramatically, just enough to lose sight of his Stamford Bridge potential.

He only played once the following term, instead resigned to development team duties.

Soccer - UEFA Youth League - Schalke 04 U19 v Chelsea U19 - Stimberg Stadium
(Photo by Darren Walsh/Chelsea FC via Getty Images)

Three separate loan spells ensued, first to Reading, then Watford and Bournemouth.

His initial stint by the coast impressed Bournemouth enough to recruit him permanently, in a deal worth £40m (BBC).

Left without an Ake

Ake departed the Cherries last August to join Manchester City and become a Premier League champion

But there is still a sense of what could have been, had he remained at Chelsea.

Not only did the Blues lose a very promising individual, they also forfeited something they have yet to properly reclaim: a left-footed centre-back.

Manchester City v Burnley - Premier League
(Photo by Alex Livesey/Getty Images)

Such players are rarities in the modern game, which is why when they become available, clubs are jostling for their signature.

They provide a balance to the defensive line, meaning two right-footers aren’t stationed together.

Chelsea have acquired many a centre-half since Ake left for Bournemouth, but not with the luxury of being left-footed.

Until they stumbled upon Malang Sarr.

Sarr the solution?

Originally, it appeared the Blues had actually signed Sarr by accident.

The young Frenchman was sent off on loan to Porto almost immediately after penning a deal with Frank Lampard’s then employers.

FC Porto v Manchester City: Group C - UEFA Champions League
(Photo by Octavio Passos/Getty Images)

A very disappointing season in Portugal followed, leaving very little to be desired about the former Nice prodigy.

Having returned to Cobham over the summer, the Blues tried desperately to send Sarr away again.

They failed in doing so and instead included him in Thomas Tuchel’s squad.

Still, it seemed unlikely he would feature very prominently – if at all – considering his displays in Porto’s colours.

Yet, Sarr showed up on Saturday’s away trip to Brentford, with the 22-year-old putting in a brilliant display in his maiden Premier League outing.

Brentford v Chelsea - Premier League
(Photo by Catherine Ivill/Getty Images)

He was sturdy for majority of the match, generally playing without fear in front of a buzzing Bees crowd.

His exhibition gave a glimpse into life with a left-side CB, which for an hour and a half, looked pretty promising.

Permitted Tuchel uses Sarr more regularly, Chelsea might just have found the answer to their Ake question.    

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