Life as a footballer can be quite glamorous, at least we imagine from the outside looking in. But it’s a profession where every step and every minute carries with it the inherit risk of losing it all. And that is almost what happened for Kurt Zouma.
With one bad landing in February 2016, in a match against Manchester United, he ruptured his right ACL. It took him nine months to return to the pitch, with first-team minutes only coming a couple months later. As it turned out, he was really only about halfway through his complete recovery at that point, which he would finish while out on loan for two years, first with Stoke City, then with Everton.
Now, three and a half years after the injury, Zouma’s back and starting for Chelsea. It’s been quite a journey, as he reflected after Sunday’s 1-1 draw against Leicester City, his third start in just as many games to begin the season.
“It has been a very, very long journey. I don’t want to talk about that now because that is the past but I fought very hard. People don’t know, people don’t see but I was in the shadow, working hard to get back because I had a very, very bad injury. I was off for one year but people forget that and don’t see.
“But me, I always believed in myself. My family was always there behind me, supporting me and now I am back here, I am very happy to play here. I just want to keep going.”
His first competitive appearance for Chelsea after all that time was one to forget, but he’s settled down after those opening day jitters. There are still gaps in his game, but physically he looks back to his best and he’s starting to show some of the technical skills he’s picked up over the years, whipping out a few David Luiz-esque passes, even, as Chelsea made a much better effort of switching play with long balls against Leicester City, at least in the first half.
There is room for improvement, as always, but it’s been a solid start for him.
“I am here. Everything is done now. I have to do my job here and I am happy to be here. I just want to work hard and play. That’s what I’m trying to do and the most important thing is the team. We need to start winning games.”
“We are understanding each other. There are players who came back – like me – and other players, the younger guys who came in. Now we are starting to understand each other. We just need to be more clinical and get the wins.”
With Antonio Rüdiger close to returning from injury, competition for minutes at center back will only increase. But Zouma’s hard work and dedication over the past few years has gotten him back to Chelsea, just as he had wanted all along. He may not be the perfect defender, but it won’t be for a lack of effort.
“That’s what I wanted. I came here and wanted to play.
“I am in a big club and everyone here wants to play. The competition is very hard and you can see in the squad, there are a lot of talented players so when you train, you have to do it right. That’s what I am trying to do and that’s what I am working hard for.”
-Kurt Zouma; Source: The Guardian
So say we all.