There's a massive interview with Kurt Zouma by James Olley in the Evening Standard that you all should read. I'm going to highlight a couple different passages, but you owe it to yourself to read the whole thing if you haven't yet. Here's part 1 and here's part 2.
Let's start with the big one from just a couple days ago, when Zouma used the word 'cheat' describe Costa's actions. We all know what Costa does of course, but cheating implies something a bit more nefarious than the mental agitations and physical provocations that the striker tends to engage in. I'm sure Costa himself wouldn't really care at all if Zouma called him a cheater, surely he knows that he's willingly toeing the line of what's fair and illegal, but the media absolutely loved this slip of the tongue from the young defender. So Zouma felt obliged to correct his initially phrasing. Here, he goes into a bit more detail on the incident and associated reaction.
"I didn't remember what I said and I didn't expect it to come out like it did. It was a mistake and I am really sorry for it. It is my second year in England and my English is not perfect. Everybody can do mistakes. This day, I did. I never thought Diego is a cheat. He is a friend. I like this guy. On the pitch he gives everything for the club and the team. I hope he will continue like this. He should not change."
"I spoke to him and said, ‘Sorry, mate' because I didn't want to say that. English is not my first language, so I did not mean it. He told me: ‘It's OK, no problem. I know what you wanted to say'."
"Diego is a really nice guy. People just don't see it. He is clever because he likes to put a guy off his game, so he loses control. Diego knows what he has to do."
"In training he jokes a lot. He is so friendly. Diego is the craziest guy in the club. He is too funny. Everybody is very happy to have Diego in the team."
Apparently, Zouma was distraught enough that he even got some counseling from Chelsea legend Didier Drogba, who experienced a similar episode in 2006 when he famously said "sometimes I dive, sometimes I stand", before correcting himself to say that he's not diver, he just "plays his game". (Which involved ... errm ... embellishing? things.) Anyway.
As with most football media stories, this is much ado about hardly anything, but poor
old young Kurt will probably have it thrown back at him a few more times in the near future.
Speaking of the future, here's a far more lovely line that should be more readily associated with the 20-year-old.
"I want to show that Chelsea is where I want to be. I like the club and the people in it. I want to be one of the legends of the club but there is still a long way to go."
So far so good for Zouma and his ambitions. Mourinho clearly rates him -- "He's very important for us; a young boy, strong mentality, works hard to improve, he's a humble boy and I'm so happy with him." -- and not just at center back but at left back and defensive midfield, too. And while he's working to displace John Terry from the starting lineup, he's also grateful for the lessons that he's learning from one of the best center backs of all time.
"I used to play as John Terry [on the Playstation]! It is strange to have watched John on the TV and now be playing and training with him."
"John speaks to me a lot. When I came here for the first time, before my first game, he spoke to me and said, ‘English football is not the same as in France. You need to be ready. It is more physical, you have to read situations because the strikers go in behind you more. When a striker drops back you have to follow.' On the pitch, he speaks to me a lot as does Gary Cahill."
"For me, John is a legend and he will always be that. I have a chance to play some games and improve a lot. There is no pressure for me to replace him but if I play, I have to show what I can give for the team."
Zouma took a rest day against Walsall in the League Cup, but presumably will be back in starting lineup against Newcastle. Whether he's partnered with Cahill or Terry, we'll have to wait and find out, but that he's the one we expect to start for sure speaks volumes about just how far he's come already in the little over a year that he's been at Chelsea. Go on, Happy! The sky's the limit.