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Wandervogel instead of superstar! Chelsea got a transfer ban because of a second division player



Gael Kakuta

His transfer to Chelsea had a severe impact, after which things hardly went as expected for Gaël Kakuta.

He was to become football’s new superstar. Gaël Kakuta dominated at youth level, one of the biggest clubs ever signing him as a teenager. But the transfer was controversial and momentous.

A few titles are still in the vita of the Frenchman, who later became a migratory bird and now plays in France’s second division.

Kakuta joined Chelsea from RC Lens in 2007 as a minor aged 15. The French were angry that their greatest talent was being stolen from them. They did not accept the change and its circumstances and complained to FIFA.

The investigations of the world association had consequences for the blues two years later. According to FIFA, Chelsea were behind the contract termination between Kakuta and Lens. A similar case, like that between 1. FC Köln and Olimpija Ljubljana these days. And similar to FC, there was a fat penalty for Chelsea: the Londoners were not allowed to register any new players for two transfer periods. Kakuta was sentenced to a four-month ban and €780,000 fine and Chelsea had to pay Lens €130,000 in compensation.

Transfers of underage players were not as common then as they are today. This is one of the reasons why the Kakuta case attracted a lot of attention and triggered heated discussions about the behavior of large clubs on the transfer market.

Chelsea, however, did not accept the verdict, appealed and, after a long struggle, was even right in early 2011.

Gaël Kakuta: Lots of loans, little development

Despite a broken ankle in February 2009, things didn’t go badly for Kakuta at Chelsea. He was also a standout player when he was young at the top English club and made a couple of senior appearances. At the U19 European Championship in 2010, the tricky attacking player came up trumps and led France to the title.

However, the star-studded Chelsea pros were not yet able to make regular appearances. Kakuta was inducted into the blues’ much-cited “Loan Army” – and that started the downward spiral. In 2011 he moved first to Fulham and then to Bolton Wanderers. A year later it went to Dijon and then to Vitesse Arnhem.

Kakuta keeps hinting at his great potential, but lacks consistency. But how is this supposed to come about with a young player given the constantly changing clubs and environments? In Arnhem they are not happy with their fluctuating ideas, the two-year loan is broken off after six months.

Gaël Kakuta: Difficult times at Lazio too

As of early 2014, Kakuta is still a Chelsea player but miles away from the professional squad. Lazio call and bring him to the Eternal City on the last day of the winter transfer window as a replacement for Hernanes, who has moved to Juventus. Again it is a loan deal, this time with a purchase option for 3.5 million euros.

Kakuta is looking forward to his new role. Finally the prospect of gaining a foothold at a well-known club with the prospect of staying there longer. Alone, coach Edy Reja has other concerns in view of a weak season for the Biancocelesti than installing a young playmaker in his team.

Kakuta spends the first four games in Rome completely on the bench. He is then allowed in for four minutes against Atalanta, followed by 22 minutes in the Europa League against Ludogorets.

Gaël Kakuta: farewell to Rome, flourishing in Lens

It remained Kakuta’s only appearances for Lazio. Ahead of the final game of the season against Bologna, he tweeted between frustration and relief: “One more game and my loan at Lazio is over.”

His failure in Rome is also a defeat for sports director Igli Tare. The former Bundesliga player announced in January: “He’s very strong, you’ll see.” Then, in the spring, he said of Kakuta, “I feel guilty, he had few opportunities.”

Rayo Vallecano, Seville, Hebei, Deportivo – Kakuta never really felt at home afterwards either. Until he returned home in 2017 and from then on only played for Amiens and his hometown club Lens. In 2020/21 he had the best season of his career and was Lens’ top scorer in Ligue 1 with 11 goals.

Gaël Kakuta: Congo national team player

At the national team level, things didn’t go as well as expected for Kakuta. When it became apparent that he would probably not be an option for France’s senior national team, the Lille-born attacking player decided to change associations thanks to dual nationality and has played for the Democratic Republic of the Congo since 2017. Since then he has played 13 international matches and scored two goals. He is still waiting to take part in a major tournament. In the playoffs for the World Cup in Qatar, Congo lost to Morocco.

Kakuta is now 31 years old and has been back in Amiens since October 2022, in Ligue 2. He has made 18 appearances this season, scoring four goals.

Kakuta didn’t have a really great career, but it did have a rather unique one.