In recent years, Chelsea haven’t had the best track record of integrating youth players into the first-team. This week’s Forgotten Blue is no exception, but this example is a little different to all the other failed academy products at Stamford Bridge.
That man is, of course, Gael Kakuta.
RC Lens youth product Kakuta was signed by Chelsea in 2007, but it was revealed two years later that the Blues had broken FIFA rules by enticing the Frenchman to break his contract at Lens. This resulted in a two window transfer ban for Chelsea.
The ban was eventually lifted, but the case had catapulted Gael Kakuta into the spotlight. There was pressure for him to succeed at Stamford Bridge.
Kakuta started off well, impressing in the youth sides at Chelsea. His form earned him a spot in the first-team, and in Carlo Ancelotti’s Champions League squad. He made his much anticipated Chelsea debut against Wolves in the Premier League.
His next appearance for the first-team came in the League Cup against Blackburn, which saw the Frenchman miss the decisive penalty as the Blues were knocked out of the competition at the quarter-final stage. During the 2009/10 season, he would make four appearances in all competitions, including an appearance in the Champions League against Cypriot side APOEL Nicosia. This meant Kakuta became the youngest ever player to play for Chelsea in the competition.
The following season saw Kakuta become involved in the first-team, as he made five league appearances under Ancelotti and a further seven in other competitions. In January 2011, Kakuta made his first loan exit from Stamford Bridge, joining West London rivals Fulham on loan for the rest of the 2010/11 season.
Loan spells would unfortunately define the rest of Kakuta’s Chelsea career. Following his spell at Fulham, he was then sent to Bolton during the 2011/12 season. Six months and six appearances later, Kakuta returned to Chelsea in the January transfer window. He spent the rest of the season on loan in his native France, playing for Dijon.
The next 18 months would be spent in the Netherlands, at Chelsea’s feeder club Vitesse. He made 34 appearances in the Eredivise and scored twice during his time at the GelreDome. He would spend the rest of the 2013/14 season on loan at Lazio.
Yet another loan spell followed, as he joined Rayo Vallecano on loan for the 2014/15 season and made 35 appearances in the La Liga. Kakuta finally left Chelsea permanently in the summer of 2015 following the expiration of his contract, joining fellow La Liga side Sevilla.
Despite signing a four-year-deal at the club in June 2015, Kakuta left Sevilla in February 2016, making a big money move to Chinese side Hebei Club Fortune. Kakuta wasn’t in China for long, however, and returned to Spain in January 2017 after joining Deportivo on loan.
Kakuta made yet another move in July 2017, returning to France to join Ligue 1 side Amiens SC. Despite being in the media spotlight for almost a decade, Kakuta is still only 26 years of age and has most of his career ahead of him.
Despite Chelsea breaking rules to bring him to the club, Kakuta never truly established himself at Stamford Bridge, and will have been forgotten about by a number of fans.