Carlo Ancelotti, the Chelsea manager, claims Gaël Kakuta, the youngster at the centre of the club's transfer scandal, is the best 18-year-old he has seen and that bringing the French playmaker to Stamford Bridge was worth all the fuss.
Kakuta joined Chelsea in 2007 from Lens, although it was alleged in September this year that the player had been enticed by the Blues to break his contract with the French team. Kakuta was banned from football for four months and ordered by Fifa to pay his former employers €780,000 (£680,000), while Chelsea also faced a compensation claim and an 18-month transfer ban.
Those reparations have been frozen pending an appeal next year, meaning that Kakuta could make his debut from the substitutes' bench when Chelsea host Wolves today. In his first year at Stamford Bridge Kakuta inspired the young Blues all the way to FA Youth Cup final and was named Academy Scholar of the Year, scoring 12 times in 24 appearances for the Under-18s.
International acclaim followed and Kakuta starred for France in last summer's Uefa Under-17 Championships, making the tournament's top 10 players to watch. "Technically he is fantastic," Ancelotti said. "At that age, I have never seen one player with his talent. [He] has been worth the attention.
"He is a very good talent, very young. He can be one player in the future of the club, with his quality. His character is good. He is a quiet boy.
"He is a No10, like Deco or Joe Cole. Ready for the first team? No. But to come on, yes, he is not so strong in this moment and he must improve his physical quality, technically he is ready to play." The furore surrounding "Kakutagate" doubtless had an effect on the teenager. Ancelotti, though, claims that the player's strength of character helped him emerge from the difficult time. "He suffered for one or two weeks with this situation," Ancelotti said. "After he returned quiet and calm, he has stayed with us to train and he has been good. It was not so important to speak with him. It was important for him to train with us in that period and to focus on football."
In light of January's African Nations Cup and any potential ban Chelsea may suffer when their appeal is heard next year, Ancelotti rubbished claims he has plans to strengthen his squad in the transfer window. The Italian cited Kakuta and others as examples as to why he is happy to fix the problem of injuries, absentees and transfer embargos internally.
"At the academy of Milan, there were not players who were ready to play with international players in the first team," said Ancelotti. "Here is different, people like Kakuta are ready to play. Our aim is to maintain players in good condition, with fitness, above all in January," he said. "That is our aim for the future and we can do this. We have to play without African players in January.
"We don't want to take players on loan, we have young players we can use in this period. I want to begin using them on the bench and if possible I will get them on the pitch."
Along with Kakuta, Italian forward Fabio Borini and Serbian playmaker Nemanja Matic will be on the bench against Wolves. "Against Wolves we have to pay attention," said Ancelotti. "They have good strikers and [Kevin] Doyle will be hungry given what happened [in Paris] on Wednesday."Reuse content