Defending World Cup champions France are certainly not hurting for talent at any position, and that includes central defense, where any combination of Raphaël Varane (Real Madrid), Clément Lenglet (Barcelona), and Presnel Kimpembe (PSG) would do just fine at any level.
Joining that trio this month is none other than Chelsea center back Kurt Zouma, who may not immediately come to mind as one of the best France has to offer, but has certainly convinced Les Bleus head coach Didier Deschamps — while also leading all Chelsea center backs in minutes since the arrival of Frank Lampard now nearly eighteen months ago.
“Kurt has been with us for a while, he’s been called up many times but hasn’t played that much. If I pick him it’s because I think he’s better than the other people because of what he’s doing at Chelsea. He had a few injuries in a row but now he’s been very fit for a while, he’s very calm, so he’s here. [He] is doing very well, he’s a starter at Chelsea and he knows the French team as well.”
Zouma’s inclusion is somewhat ironic as it comes at the expense of Dayot Upamecano, who’s supposed to be the next big thing in center backs, and is thus a favorite target for many a speculator for Chelsea’s next summer transfer window.
But as Deschamps explains, the young RB Leipzig man is not at his best at the moment.
“He was with us before. He’s going through a more difficult moment. He knows he can do better. [He] is a young player and he has the potential. He’s playing many games. [...] I make that choice today because it’s logical to me.”
-Didier Deschamps; source: Metro
Overcoming obstacles is part of the journey for any top professional. Zouma himself had to do it, most notably with his ACL injury and length recovery. But now he’s back with us and playing his best, in no small part thanks to being able to line up alongside Thiago Silva. But Silva won’t last for more than a season or two, and we need a long-term solution, be that Upamecano or someone else.