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Former ‘most gifted player of his generation’ to play at AFCON 2023

Former ‘most gifted player of his generation’ to play at AFCON 2023

A former Chelsea wonderkid once dubbed the ‘most gifted player of his generation’ will represent his country once again at the upcoming Africa Cup of Nations.

AFCON will be held in the Ivory Coast this year, with 24 nations from across the continent battling it out to lift the trophy.

The four pots for the draw, which was held in September, were determined by the FIFA world rankings at the time, with defending champions Senegal and Egypt among the teams in pot one.

Cameroon and Ghana were in pot two, while pot three contained 2010 World Cup hosts South Africa.

Also in pot two were DR Congo, who were drawn in the same group as Morocco, Zambia and Tanzania.

Included in their squad is former Blues wonderkid Gael Kakuta, who is now 32 years of age and playing in the second tier of French football with Amiens.

The winger signed for Chelsea in the summer of 2007 from Lens when he was just 16.

Kakuta was regarded as one of the most talented young prospects on the planet at the time, and spent two years in the club’s academy system before being handed his first team debut by Carlo Ancelotti during the 2009/10 season.

The winger, who was a France youth international at the time, made another 12 appearances in the following campaign, taking his match tally up to 16 in all competitions by the summer of 2011.

In the following campaigns – after a short temporary spell with Fulham – Kakuta went on a further five loan spells away from Stamford Bridge, firmly embedding himself in the generation of Chelsea youngsters that, in some cases, had more loans than first team appearances for the Blues.

Kakuta joined Sevilla in the summer of 2015, having failed to add to those 16 games in a Blues shirt. Reports suggested the Spanish side had to pay compensation, given the winger was still under 24 at the time.

Spells in China, Spain and France followed, with Kakuta undergoing somewhat of a career renaissance when he scored 11 goals in 35 games for Lens during the 2020/21 season.

He joined Lens permanently the following summer, but had little success from then on before moving back to Amiens.

Kakuta is perhaps best known to some English football fans for his move leading to Chelsea being handed a transfer ban by FIFA in September 2009.

FIFA accused them of ‘illegally inducing’ Kakuta to break his Lens contract in order to sign for them in 2007.

The Blues were deemed to be ‘jointly and severally liable’ after FIFA’s dispute and resolution chamber ruled on the case. The player himself was fined an astonishing €780,000.

But Chelsea immediately appealed the sanction, and both the two clubs and Kakuta subsequently accepted that the player’s contract with Lens was, in fact, not valid.

As a result, Chelsea were deemed to be ‘not liable for inducing a breach of contract’, and their transfer ban was immediately lifted.

A statement from the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) at the time read: “The Cas has noted that, in the agreement [between Chelsea, Lens and Kakuta], the two clubs and the player have recognised that the contract between the player and RC Lens was not valid.

“Accordingly, the player could not have terminated it prematurely and without just cause and Chelsea FC cannot therefore be liable for inducing a breach of contract.

“As a consequence, in light of these new circumstances, the sanctions imposed upon Chelsea FC and the player by the FIFA Dispute Resolution Chamber had to be lifted.”



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