This article is part of Football FanCast’s In The Pipeline series, which takes a look at some of the most promising young talent either linked with clubs or emerging from their academies…
Serge Atakayi had become a forgotten figure at Rangers but with his dramatic late winner for the Ibrox club’s colt team against Ballymena in the Challenge Cup he has returned to relative notoriety.
Born in Kinsasha in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Atakayi and his youth team claimed asylum in 2010 in Finland where he remained until Rangers signed him in 2016 from FC Jaro. He went on to represent his adopted homeland at both U18 and U19 levels and was called up by DR Congo’s Olympic squad earlier this year.
Atakayi plays most of his football on the wing but can play centrally too. His goal against Ballymena is typical of his style, making a run behind a defence before finishing a 1 v 1 situation.
Graeme Murty, who is head coach for the academy side, said afterwards: “Serge has got everything in terms of pace. He’s electric. Unfortunately for them it came from a little bit of an error, but Serge got himself through there and took the goal really, really well.”
Atakayi has already experienced first team football at Ibrox but was unfortunate to suffer an injury after coming on as a substitute in a 7-1 demolition of Motherwell. Once he recovered, he went on loan back to Finland for SJK Seinajoki and managed to bag one goal and one assist. His statistics weren’t great, but he did score a fabulous goal v HJK Helsinki.
Before his move, Atakayi confirmed he had spoken to his manager: “Rangers saw this as the best solution for me. Steven Gerrard has told me he thinks I can play for the first team next season.”
Perhaps his appearance against Ballymena is a positive sign of that next step soon coming, with Gerrard seemingly outlining a squad role for him this term. He clearly harbours hopes of that too, after launching a “let me play” plea on social media.
Hopefully he gets his wish because with his contract due to expire this summer, it’s an important year for the Rangers prospect.