Back in 2015, young and powerful Kurt Zouma seemed certain to be Chelsea’s centre back of the future. The “Mourinho Season” itself may have been going south, fast, but Zouma, then just barely 21, had established himself as the regular partner to John Terry in defence in a rare positive development for the Blues. The start against Manchester United at Old Trafford in February 2016 had been 58th appearance for Chelsea already.
In the following 2.5 years since, he’s added just 13 more to that number.
An awkward landing in that United match ruptured his ACL; it took him almost exactly a year to make his first-team return. But Antonio Conte was never quite convinced, and despite a good loan at relegation-bound Stoke City last season, Maurizio Sarri had barely taken a look before the now 23-year-old was sent on loan again, this time to Everton.
But Zouma isn’t ready to give up his Chelsea dream just yet. He’s signed through 2023, so there’s certainly plenty of time.
“I have always wanted to show myself at Chelsea since I have been there. It comes from my mentality. I have always believed in myself since I started playing at 16.”
“I know my injuries stopped me in the way I wanted to play, but injuries are part of football and I want to show people I can come back and play there.”
Going on loan is obviously not the preferred choice of any player, but with a logjam of center backs and the switch to a back-four under late-arriving new head coach Maurizio Sarri, Zouma saw the writing on the wall and chose the more sensible path.
“Because the manager arrived late we didn’t know what was the plan of the club.”
“At Chelsea there were a lot of defenders. I knew I needed to play regularly so I didn’t want to stay on the bench and wait for my chance after two or three months. He agreed with me. I spoke with him and I knew at Chelsea they had five central defenders already. He plays with four at the back, so there are only two who play. I didn’t want to wait and he completely agreed.”
Zouma was briefly linked with a permanent switch to Manchester United and a reunion with José Mourinho, but as he reveals, leaving Chelsea is not something he’s considering at all.
“No, [I don’t think about leaving Chelsea] at the moment. Everton is a very good club. For me it’s a good chance to come in and I will give my all.
“Last year was a difficult season. I played a lot of games and I want to do the same here, but play higher up the table because we have good quality. I have come here to play and I want to take the opportunity the manager has given me.”
-Kurt Zouma; source: Telegraph
Zouma made his Everton debut this past weekend, replacing the injured Michael Keane in added-on time of their 2-2 draw at Bournemouth. Keane is expected to be out at least a month with a hairline skull fracture, and while that’s rather unfortunate and scary for him, Zouma should thus have an opportunity to stake his claim for one of the starting spots under manager Marco Silva. He’s expected to start tonight in their League Cup second round match against Rotherham United.
“It wasn’t easy last season and I learned. I was a champion with Chelsea and I went down with Stoke so I’ve got a bit of everything in my head now.
“But it won’t affect my confidence. I know the quality I have, I know what I can bring to this team and I want to give 100 per cent.”
-Kurt Zouma; source: Everton FC
Good luck, Big Kurt!