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Chelsea's golden child Gaël Kakuta ready to emerge from his gilded cage

The French teenager is showing he was worth the bother after his infamous transfer from Lens

Arsenal were not the only young pretenders who must have found Chelsea's weekend demolition a little intimidating. For a batch of teenagers tutored in Cobham who are eager to bash down the dressing-room door at Stamford Bridge, the exploits of the senior team must leave them simultaneously inspired and daunted. Part of them must surely wonder how on earth they usurp a Didier Drogba, Michael Essien or John Terry.

Any Chelsea youngster knows the hurdles at their club are distinctly high. Of the selection that steamrollered all over the pitch at Emirates Stadium, only one was under the age of 25. Even the two substitutes who came on were weighted with experience, in the 32-year-old Deco and the 29-year-old Florent Malouda.

It has been easy to write off Chelsea's youth policy under Roman Abramovich as an expensive frippery. And yet, when Carlo Ancelotti attends all of Chelsea's reserve games, he does so with serious intent. There is quiet confidence that the current crop of young professionals can squash the cliche that this is a club with a failed academy, a club that has not successfully nurtured its own since Terry established himself almost a decade ago.

"The academy is well," says Ancelotti. "We have five or six players who by next year can stay in the first team." That is some claim. Five or six players, when one would be considered a breakthrough – really? "I think they have a lot of possibilities to make a career with Chelsea," he said. "But it depends on them. It doesn't depend on me."

The group he refers to includes the three juniors who made substitute appearances in last month's 4-0 home win against Wolves – Gaël Kakuta, Fabio Borini and Nemanja Matic – plus the injured Jeffrey Bruma and Sam Hutchinson. One of those names pops out with bells on: Kakuta. Infamous before he even kicked a ball for Chelsea.

The glare around the Frenchman is bound to be more intense than any of his contemporaries by virtue of his extraordinary story. If you are the boy who Chelsea wanted so badly they effectively sacrificed a couple of transfer windows for your signature, you had better be worth it.

If life were fairer, a little gentler even, he would be allowed the space to develop without quite so much scrutiny. But he seems to possess a sunny enough nature that he might just manage to take it in his assured stride. Naturally he was not one of the loudest members of his academy year when he arrived at Cobham aged 16, but Kakuta has come out of his shell and has an infectious humour. His English is more than adequate to ensure he is very much one of the boys.

The weeks following Fifa's ruling – that Kakuta's transfer to Chelsea was illegal and punishable by extensive bans and fines for club and player – were obviously challenging for a teenager away from home. His response was to throw himself into training, and stay on to work extra sessions in an attempt to compensate for the lack of match practice. That tells you something about his determination. "My fitness is good," he says now. "Because of the ban I have been out for months but I worked double sessions every day and I feel good."

He did feel the pleasure of competition with a tournament in Sendai, Japan, for the France Under-19 team in September. He scored two classy goals and was voted player of the tournament.

To Francis Smerecki, coach of France's Under-19s, Kakuta is reminiscent of a Brazilian magician who was the best player in the world not so long ago. "His capacity to eliminate his opponents and make the difference to win matches reminds me of Ronaldinho," he says. "His force, his inventiveness, his dribbling, he is so easy on the ball. On top of that, he possesses true vision. To make the next step in his development he would benefit from playing in the Chelsea first team."

It remains a slight niggle with his admirers in France that his progress will be slower at Stamford Bridge than it would have been at the Stade Félix- Bollaert. Had he stayed at Lens, the club who contested the validity of his move to Chelsea, the experts believe he would by now have been playing Ligue 1 football regularly.

Kakuta had been with Lens since the age of eight. A club with a good reputation for youth development, and a 45-minute train ride away from his home in the suburbs of Lille, it made for a good grounding. In French they have a word for players like Kakuta, those capable of annihilating any hurdle in youth football, which best translates as "over-gifted". His over-gift was such he was selected to represent France at all junior levels, although he has not yet graduated beyond the Under-19s.

His Chelsea debut against Wolves came joyously. The blue sparkle attracted the attention of everybody inside Stamford Bridge, and the only thing that was lacking was the goal he craved. "I had been waiting so long for it," he said. "I wanted to score so much but I lost focus when I shot. All the players were behind me, helping me and talking to me, so that was good." The 18-year-old expects to make a second appearance, perhaps also from the bench, in the Carling Cup quarter-final against Blackburn Rovers.

Ironically, the January transfer window may well prove significant regarding Kakuta's chances of playing time this season. Given Chelsea's temporary reprieve from the Fifa ban, which coincides with the scheduling of the African Cup of Nations, transfer activity is inevitable.

Ancelotti is not convinced possible purchases will stunt the development of Kakuta and company. "No, I don't think so," he said. "Young players have to improve without thinking of playing in the first team. These players are ready to play in the first team with us, but they are not ready to play in a strong game."

Kakuta may not be ready for full exposure, but he is ready for cameos, and the whirlwind of attention that comes with them. Having players who have gone through similar experiences to tap into might make him slightly less self-conscious.

Nicolas Anelka, a fellow Frenchman who was feted as the sensation of his age group in junior football, was controversially spirited from Paris St-Germain to Arsenal in his teens. Mikel John Obi was himself involved in a complex and litigious move to Stamford Bridge – from Lyn Oslo in 2006 after Manchester United had claimed to have signed him – and has tried to offer encouragement. "You could see when Kakuta came on how relieved he was, how free he was, running around the pitch," he observed. "He knows about what happened with me, and I believe in him – he's a fantastic player."

It is the exception, the sole member of the establishment under the age of 25, who stands as a real beacon to the youngsters. Mikel, at the relatively tender age of 22, has more than 100 first-team appearances to his name. And there is the example for Kakuta. It can be done. Now go do it.

Carling Cup quarter-final, Ewood Park, kick-off 8pm

Probable teams: Blackburn Rovers (4-5-1): Robinson; Chimbonda, Nelsen, Samba, Emerton; Givet, N'Zonzi, Diouf, Andrews, Pedersen; McCarthy. Subs from: Van Heerden, Kalinic, Roberts, Hoilett, Salgado, Jacobsen, Jones.

Chelsea (4-1-3-2): Hilário; Ferreira, Terry, Carvalho, Zhirkov; Belletti; Ballack, Cole, Deco; Kalou, Borini. Subs from: Turnbull, Ivanovic, Matic, Kakuta, Malouda, Lampard, Anelka, Drogba.

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'It remains a slight niggle with his admirers in France that his progress will be slower at Stamford Bridge than it would have been at the Stade Félix- Bollaert. Had he stayed at Lens, the club who contested the validity of his move to Chelsea, the experts believe he would by now have been playing Ligue 1 football regularly.'

No suprises there then; I could probably turn out for Lens, and I'm 52!

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