In 2009 Chelsea received a two-year transfer ban and nearly £1 million in fines from FIFA, owing to their illegal pursuit of a young French wonder-kid. The player so special Chelsea broke legal proceedings to sign him? Gaël Kakuta!
Five years on and Kakuta, now 23-years-old, has joined La Liga side Rayo Vallecano on loan. Still contracted to Chelsea, the former France Under-21 forward has played just sixteen games for the Blues, whilst Rayo will be his sixth loan side. Hardly the stuff of legends.
After joining Chelsea from Lens, Kakuta was expected to progress smoothly into the first-team. The story goes that Michael Ballack, the legendary German midfielder who played alongside and against some of the best to have played the game told reporters, "go see the French lad, he is the star", after playing alongside Kakuta for the reserves.
The story, much like the player himself, is a myth, however Kakuta's potential was recognised when he received the Academy Player of the Year Award. A double-ankle fracture halted his progress, and subsequent loan moves have given little indication he is ready for top-level European football.
Kakuta spent part of last season on loan at Chelsea's unofficial reserve team, Dutch side Vitesse Arnhem. Twelve substitute appearances yielded a single goal, and having not started an Eredivise game, his loan was cancelled in January, much to the disgust of the scout that initially brought Kakuta to Stamford Bridge.
He said: "It is a huge waste. I already said it and I repeat it, he is the most gifted player of his generation. He could have been exceptional".
Kakuta made a late move to Serie A side Lazio in January, however, failing to dislodge captain Antonio Candreva, the 23-year-old made a single substitute appearance.
What will he offer Rayo?
It is difficult to decide whether Rayo have been shrewd in signing the Frenchman on loan. With his contract expiring next summer, Rayo can pick him up on a free if he shows even half of his supposed potential.
Rayo play attractive, passing football, so Kakuta, a technical player capable of playing a variety of positions, either on the flanks or behind the striker, should feel at home at Los Franjirrojos. Rayo lost Iago Falque, who returned to parent club Tottenham this summer, so there is certainly a need for a wide player. However the signing of Alejandro Pozuelo has instantly put Kakuta's position under threat. Pozuelo showed glimpses of talent at Swansea, but should be ideally suited to Rayo's passing philosophy, and the less physical environment of La Liga.
Rayo's biggest signing of the summer so far is Licá, a 25-year-old Portuguese winger from Porto. The €4.4 million fee to bring Licá to Rayo is an expensive transfer for one of La Liga's more financially strained clubs, so you would expect the Portuguese international to feature heavily on the left-wing.
Rayo will be all too aware that they have a potential diamond in their squad, but at twenty-three, the time to turn potential into reality has almost passed. I would love to be proved wrong, but even at a supposedly "smaller" club, Kakuta looks resigned to sit on the bench.
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