As the January transfer window reaches a crescendo of activity, Sky Sports runs the rule over the high-profile movers in the Premier League. Hit or miss? Read our assessment and offer your own verdict here...
By Alex Dunn
Last Updated: 31/01/14 6:50pm
From: St Etienne
Given his tender years it's understandably short (52 league appearances, four goals), but mightily impressive nonetheless. From the moment Zouma was granted his St Etienne debut by Christophe Galtier back in 2011 he was earmarked for international honours and in October last year France coach Didier Deschamps duly awarded him a first call-up. He's yet to make his full France bow but having represented his country at every youth level from U16 to U21, it's a matter of when not if. Indeed, such is his meteoric rise he's even been tipped to one day captain Le Bleus. Mature beyond his years, calm in possession and with an incessant athleticism it's almost as if Chelsea have landed the new Marcel Desailly. Zouma will not pitch up in west London until the summer at the earliest but his signature will likely keep John Terry on his toes (or make him lose sleep) as Chelsea's skipper awaits to learn if he will receive fresh terms of his own.
"A phone call from Mourinho? It is true, there was contact a month ago. At first I thought it was a joke. When a great man like Jose Mourinho contacts a small player like Kurt Zouma that offers great pride."
"If we don't do it now, probably we can't do it in the summer because other clubs were also very strong on him. So we did it, now he stays at Saint-Etienne, pre-season he will join us. We will see if it is to stay or if it is to go on loan. He's another young player in the profile of some Chelsea signed in the couple of last years." Chelsea boss Jose Mourinho
VINE: This is the tackle that got Kurt Zouma banned for 10 games breaking Thomas Guerbert's leg. http://t.co/3WSOwmep1k- Squawka Football (@Squawka) January 31, 2014
Despite having spent enough of Roman Abramovich's money to make Chelsea the biggest spenders in January to date, Mourinho has repeatedly tried to sell the message of his acquisitions being responsible in terms of the long-term 'project' he's overseeing. To this end, Zouma's age versus potential fits the bill perfectly. "We liked the profile; we think he's very much adapted to the Premier League. He is a young player for a position where we also need the future," said Mourinho of his latest addition. He can also provide cover at left-back, though he's very much a defender first and not prone to buccaneering forays.
On occasion he can be a little suspect positionally but his mobility more often than not compensates for any rushes of blood to the head. He's particularly effective when covering for team-mates, which given there's a chance he will partner David Luiz could be an absolute godsend. In possession he tends to keep things simple, he's certainly not as expansive as Luiz, but that's not to say he can't play. Tall and rangy, Zouma carries the air of a player who knows he's good enough to keep exalted company. Our friends at Opta inform us that Zouma is the youngest player to have made over 100 clearances in Europe's big five leagues so far in 2013/14.
The one blot on his career to date is a 10-game suspension incurred in November for a reckless, if not seemingly malicious, lunge on Thomas Guerbert that resulted in a double leg break for the Sochaux man. To be fair, his record prior to the incident is not particularly alarming and while he can hunt possession when not altogether necessary, his overall discipline is pretty sound. Mourinho has yet to decide whether Zouma will start next term at Chelsea or whether he'd benefit from garnering further experience elsewhere to smooth out any rough edges to his game.
Given Mourinho could yet end up sending him out on-loan next season, a la Thibaut Courtois, it could be another 12-18 months before we actually see him in a Chelsea shirt. With any young player there's an element of risk involved given you're paying as much for potential as you are finished product but as a raw package to work with, Zouma looks to be an ideal signing. Young and hungry and clearly enthralled by his new taskmaster (which always helps with Jose), it might just prove to be Chelsea's best bit of (long-term) business in some time.