It has been a superb season for Kurt Zouma. The 24-year-old defender was loaned out to Everton at the start of the season, and has since become a key part of Marco Silva’s team. He has made 29 league appearances for the Toffees, and has truly excelled in his time at Goodison Park.
Now in his third loan spell, I believe his time has come at Chelsea. After spells at Saint-Etienne, Stoke City and most recently Everton, Zouma has clearly developed into a mature, hard-hitting centre-back, one who should certainly be back at Chelsea.
There is little doubt that everyone at Chelsea wants him in the first team, and there is little to argue with. As long-serving Gary Cahill looks destined to leave in the summer, and defensive investments clearly necessary, this may be the perfect opportunity for Zouma to return.
His presence in the game is unrivalled, with his physicality and power crucial to Everton this season. Zouma is fearless and determined, and heads the ball with remarkable power and precision. You can go on about why Kurt Zouma is an excellent footballer, with his talent alone showing that he deserves a chance at Chelsea.
But everyone knows that’s the case, and that Zouma does deserve a shot at Stamford Bridge. The real question is will he get that chance?
Chelsea currently have an astounding 41 players out on loan, and truthfully the majority of them will never get a chance in the first team. With the exception of Christian Pulisic – whose loan deal was a part of his transfer – very few of Chelsea’s loanees will ever get the chance to wear the blue shirt week in, week out.
Unfortunately, a strong spell on loan doesn’t guarantee first team football at Stamford Bridge, though that doesn’t mean it will be impossible for Zouma. It means that, although he has done very well on loan, there’s nothing from stopping Chelsea from sending him out on his fourth loan.
As well as this, Chelsea currently have five centre-backs in their squad. Antonio Rüdiger and David Luiz are definitely Sarri’s preferred pairing, while Andreas Christensen has occasionally been given a chance by the Italian. That leaves veteran Cahill and youngster Ethan Ampadu to make up the numbers, though they only have a combined 12 appearances in all competitions this season.
This can either be an advantage or disadvantage for Zouma. On one hand, Cahill is due to leave imminently and Luiz has also been rumoured to be on the way out. On the other hand, Sarri has stayed loyal to his defensive duo this season, and if he remains at Stamford Bridge next season it’s hard to know whether he will remain stubborn or invest in his defence.
Zouma will be eager to break back into the first team, having once been a first team regular under José Mourinho. In the infamous 2015/16 season, the Frenchman featured in 23 of Chelsea’s first 25 league games, establishing himself at the back. However a horrific knee injury in February 2016 ruled him out for the rest of the season, and he has been out of favour since.
It is a big ask for Zouma to regain his place as Chelsea’s first choice centre-back, but it is not impossible. For example, John Terry spent time on loan at Nottingham Forest in 2000 before breaking into Chelsea’s side. Zouma can certainly break back into the team, however hard it may be.
After all, if JT can return from a loan spell and become Chelsea’s greatest centre back of all time, why can’t Kurt?
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