Multiple transfer outlets have claimed that new Chelsea gaffer Thomas Tuchel is set to raid his former club Paris Saint German and pinch 18-year-old French-Moroccan starlet Kays Ruiz-Atil on a free transfer.
The midfielder was born in Lyon, France and is of Moroccan heritage through his father, making him eligible for both national sides currently. He featured for France at U19 level most recently, however also has had spells on the pitch for Morocco at youth level. While he’s yet to declare his international allegiance officially – it looks likely that his future will be in the France jersey and Les Bleus, in my opinion, will be lucky to have him if he can reach his full potential.
Almost every young, technical footballer coming through the ranks has been described as the “new Messi” at some point it seems and it usually piles unnecessary pressure onto young shoulders, however Kays Ruiz-Atil’s comparison to the Argentine magician is more justified than most. Atil was one of the hottest prospects in Barcelona’s ‘La Masia’ academy and progressed through the ranks much quicker than most. Aged just 7, Barcelona made an offer to Ruiz-Atil and his family packed their bags and made the trip to Catalonia where Kays continued to develop, becoming a super-technical and highly impressive midfielder, as you’d expect if you throw North-African football heritage and a La Masia education into a mixing bowl. Ruiz-Atil‘s stocks continued to rise and at the age of just 12 he was signed up by Adidas as one of the youngest footballers on the sport-giants roster. Unfortunately, he was forced to leave Barcelona after being released due to the club breaching regulations in regards to signing U18 players, which lead to their transfer ban back in 2015. PSG were quick to snap him up though and he’s gone on to successfully reach senior level in Paris.
Ruiz-Atil’s idol is another former Lyon man in Karim Benzema, but unlike the Real Madrid legend, Atil does his work in the middle of the pitch – predominantly as a central midfielder (although he has also operated in the ‘number 10’ role with success in the past). There is a very limited sample size to judge him off at senior level since he only debuted for PSG this season, making 7 appearances and featuring for less than 200 minutes, all of those coming under Thomas Tuchel. However, I’m sure lots of fans are digging up ‘welcome to Chelsea’ YouTube compilations already. I won’t pretend I’ve seen much of Ruiz-Atil, but I’ve seen a solid handful of Paris youth games over the last two seasons and it’s fair to say he’s been up-and-down. It’s clear to me when watching him that his technical ability is leaps and bounds ahead of most others on the pitch, and his vision to thread the needle with a cute pass or fancy flick is seriously impressive.
Despite his clear quality, it hasn’t all been plain sailing for Kays at PSG. He was a regular under Thiago Motta but once the Italian departed he has found himself in-and-out of the side and struggling for form at times. He’s always been described as hard working, though, and didn’t let his struggles get to him. Just before lockdown in March 2020, he managed to fight his way back into the side and impressed against former-club Lyon before football was suspended. He doesn’t strike me as somebody who will ever be a regular goalscorer, and I don’t think he’d rake up assists in the mould of Cesc Fabregas either, but I’d compare him slightly more to the likes of Thiago Alcantara as someone with immense ability in the centre of the park. You’re likely to find Ruiz-Atil slightly further up the field than Alcantara, though, as more of an #8 than a #6.
Barcelona and Arsenal have also been linked to Kays Ruiz-Atil who is set to become a free agent this summer having failed to agree new terms with PSG as he’s seemingly decided to end his 6-year stint in the France capital. Chelsea currently looks like the most likely destination for the midfielder though and he’d most likely slot into the clubs PL2 side initially with the view of eventually training with the first team. He’d have some serious competition for places though, with the ever-improving Lewis Bate already at the top of the food chain in Chelsea’s U23 midfield.
Would he ever become a Chelsea first team regular? Who knows. He definitely has the ability to do so but with so much competition he’ll certainly have to fight off some fellow youngsters to make it in London. He strikes me, personally, as somebody who’d continue to develop at Chelsea and he’d likely have a few loan spells away before he and the club ultimately decide his long-term future.