Kurt Zouma must leave Chelsea now for his own good
Certain factors impact negatively on a footballer’s progress. Poor fitness and limited playing time are common examples. Nothing clamps down on a player’s career like injuries, however. Ask Jack Wilshere. At 23, Kurt Zouma has felt similar pain. It took just one cruciate ligament injury to virtually halt his meteoric rise. Zouma rehabilitated his knee, put in time on loan to recover his fitness, but fell victim to another obstacle, club indifference.
Saint-Etienne unearthed a gem in Zouma. Already six-foot tall at 16, the French manchild was a towering libero with the uncanny ability to play anywhere in defence or midfield. much to Jose Mourinho's future delight.
Zouma kept growing, filling out, and developing his technique. Even though he played without a name on his jersey, it was only a matter of time before the top-dogs came for the shinbone. Chelsea outmuscled the rest with a £12 million bid.
It didn’t take long for Zouma to announce his presence at Stamford Bridge. Gary Cahill began looking over his shoulder. The Englishman ended up surrendering his place. Chelsea fans will always admire N’Golo Kante for his work rate. His young countryman was no different but unfortunately paid the ultimate price in February 2016. In the 59th minute agaisnt Manchester United, he rose to challenge for a header but landed awkwardly. That was it.
Few players ever make a successful return from such a devastating injury. In Zouma’s case, he was still a young man with time to heal. After a nine-month recovery period, however, no one expected him to come back the same player. Instead, he didn't come back to the same team. His place in the lineup was lost. The manager who’d preferred him was history. The new gaffer wasn’t interested in working him back into the team. He ended the campaign as a Premier League champion but made just three starts all year.
Chelsea rejected a loan offer from the Bundesliga before approving a similar deal from Stoke City in 2017. Before he left, Chelsea tied him to the club with a six-year contract. Zouma's middle name is Happy. That wasn't his mood when given the news he was off to the Bet 365 but Antonio Conte insisted.
Zouma did well at Stoke. He wasn’t outstanding, which had more to do with playing for a struggling team. Individually, he was a dominant presence in the Stoke rearguard, racking up 34 Premier League games and a goal. It wasn't enough to keep from relegation. He returned to Chelsea with no guarantees for his future.
Again, he arrived to a different Blues team. Antonio Conte was a lame duck on the first day of training. Not too long after he limped away, replaced by Maurizio Sarri. The new man inherited a handful of seasoned performers battling for first-team opportunities. He is also looking to sign one more centre-half. Zouma can dare to compete, but the numbers aren't on his side.
You’d expect Chelsea to keep Zouma for squad-depth but they already have plenty. They can ship him out on another loan deal. In either case, his career languishes.
Seeking a permanent move away wouldn’t be a bad idea. It will give him the opportunity to start afresh without always thinking of impressing Chelsea. Few players ever succeed in doing that. Thibaut Courtois and Andreas Christensen are exceptions to the rule that includes Ruben Loftus-Cheek, Michy Batshuayi, Nathan Ake, Tammy Abraham and Romelu Lukaku.
Rumours are rife that Kurt Zouma is wanted on loan in Turkey. A concrete deal to Italy or France should be preferred, although Chelsea is expected to play hardball before letting their asset go. Sometimes, a six-year contract isn't the job security it seems.