Kurt Zouma is ‘the ultimate defender’ who has been compared to John Terry and Marcel Desailly and went from almost being sold to Everton to potential Chelsea legend December 12, 2020 – Posted in: Soccer
Big things were expected of Kurt Zouma at the beginning of his career.
The Chelsea defender wowed fans and pundits for his mature display in a draw to Manchester City in January 2015.
Having kept City’s star forward Sergio Aguero at arm’s length, Danny Murphy even likened him to World Cup winner Marcel Desailly.
Murphy also tipped centre-back Zouma to be the one to partner John Terry as the Stamford Bridge legend entered the twilight years of his career before assuming his mantle.
“He reminds me of France legend and former AC Milan and Chelsea defender Marcel Desailly with his power and presence,” Murphy said.
“But the greatest quality he demonstrated against City was his calmness for his age – he did not once look panicked.
“It is early days but Zouma has shown that he could be Chelsea’s centre-half for many years to come.
“With his athleticism and pace, in many ways Zouma is the perfect foil for Terry who, at 34 is not as quick as he was.”
A big statement but having backed these claims up with a very assured performance in a League Cup semi-final win over Liverpool days earlier, there was no reason to suggest why the Frenchman wouldn’t kick on further.
He continued to star as Chelsea cruised to win the Premier League title later that season.
However, a freakishly bad campaign in west London followed. That, plus an anterior cruciate ligament injury in February 2016, stunted the player’s progress. Zouma wouldn’t make his first-team comeback until January 2017.
As is usually the case for any promising youngster on Chelsea’s books, Zouma went out on loan more than once – first to Stoke in 2017/18 and then to Everton in 2018/19.
He didn’t appear to do much to get the pulses racing but former Potters teammate Ryan Shawcross admitted he was surprised to see Chelsea send him on loan as he clearly saw what Zouma was all about.
“He’s quick, he can jump really high, he can pass the ball, he can shoot, he doesn’t get beat one-v-one,” Shawcross said. “He’s like the ultimate defender.”
Everton pushed hard to sign Zouma last summer after his successful loan spell at Goodison Park and extensive talks took place with Chelsea over a permanent deal.
However, he stayed put at Stamford Bridge – and he hasn’t looked back under Frank Lampard’s tutelage.
Zouma is now very much a key part of a Chelsea side under Lampard looking likely to challenge for the Premier League title.
The Blues, who face Everton away LIVE on talkSPORT on Saturday, have even been instilled as favourites by Jurgen Klopp, boss of the current champions Liverpool.
Chelsea are also looking good in the Champions League, having eased through to the last 16 as group winners.
A solid defence has been criticial to their success. In Zouma’s 16 appearances in all competitions this season, they have kept ten clean sheets.
He’s even making an impact in an attacking sense, scoring four league goals already this term.
Only Olivier Giroud, Timo Werner and Tammy Abraham have netted more times than Zouma. Quite simply, he’s a Fantasy Premier League manager’s dream!
Kurt Zouma Premier League stats in 2020/21
Clean sheets: 5
Duels won: 35
More importantly to Zouma, though, is he’s impressing his actual manager.
Lampard hasn’t been drawn into making comparisons with club legends but is clearly encouraged by Zouma’s form.
“He has been playing really well this season,” the Chelsea boss and club icon said, speaking earlier this week.
“Obviously the eye-catching thing is the amount of goals he has scored from set-pieces.
“For me, that is just him going up with more confidence, more belief in himself. He has always had size and spring, but now you see him on all parts of the pitch aerially he is a real threat and doing his job.”
One can’t talk about Zouma’s excellence without mentioning Thiago Silva, who along with goalkeeper Edouard Mendy has made Chelsea a much tighter defensive unit – an area that badly needed addressing last season.
At 26, Zouma is a seasoned pro but still has time to improve even more.
He has a perfect mentor in Silva, who’s ten years his senior, to learn off.
And it was Garth Crooks who put forward an interesting theory about the blossoming rapport between the pair during Chelsea’s 3-1 win over Leeds last weekend, a match which Zouma scored in.
“I’m not sure who is better at it at the moment, Zouma or his senior partner Thiago Silva,” Crooks said.
“There is no doubt in my mind that the arrival of the former Brazil captain has had an enormous effect on the confidence of Zouma in the same way Marcel Desailly had quite a telling impact on John Terry’s game during six years together at Stamford Bridge.
“If Zouma turns out to be anything like the defender Terry was for Chelsea then success is only just around the corner.”
Maybe Murphy was onto something about Zouma almost six years ago.
Everton vs Chelsea is LIVE on talkSPORT this Saturday, kick-off 8pm