Who is Kurt Zouma?
French CB, Age: 18, 6'2" (1.88 m), 187 lbs (85 kg)
This is an excerpt from Andrew Gibney's brilliant profile of Kurt last year (via French Football Weekly):
Since the season began Zouma had been sporting the infamous No. 33 shirt. The number given to players that haven’t been registered within the squad and usually coming in as part of the youth team.
Coach Galtier had previously said they reason Zouma’s name was not on the shirt was for his own protection. The longer Galtier could keep Zouma out of the spotlight the better chance Saint-Étienne have of keeping the defender in the famous green jersey.
In his short first team career Zouma has already scored two goals and impressed all in attendance, it seems the cat is truly out of the bag. The raw power and pace that he possesses made it very hard for anyone to get past the huge defender.
Saint-Étienne will hope, like Sakho, that Zouma is still gracing the Stade Geoffrey Guichard in five years’ time. If Manchester United or City have anything to do with it, that could be a distant dream for Les Verts.
The careers of Idriss Saadi, Benjamin Lardon, Yoann Andreu and Maodomalick Faye didn't kick on after donning the No. 33 shirt—Zouma broke the trend.
The big defender was a starter for Patrick Gonfalone's French contingent at the 2011 Euro U-17 Championships.
Though, UEFA's Technical Team omitted Kurt from the tournament select squad, instead choosing other centre-backs like Nathaniel Chalobah (England), Nicolai Johannesen (Denmark), Terence Kongolo (Netherlands) and Frederik Holst (Denmark).
When Zouma started alongside captain Raphael Calvet at the 2011 FIFA U-17 World Cup, just like at the Euros, the Saint-Étienne defender was overlooked by the Technical Study Group, who identified teammates Yassine Benzia, Abdallah Yaisien and Adrien Tameze as "outstanding players."
In the two most scouted youth tournaments, the technical committees of FIFA and UEFA did not single out Kurt for praise—that should give you some pause for thought.
In 2001, the hapless Barcelona president Joan Gaspart gave the go-ahead for a €17 million transfer of Monaco's Ligue 1 Young Player of the Year Philippe Christanval.
BBC Sport did a bio of Christanval for the 2002 FIFA World Cup:
Christanval has been a towering presence since making his debut for French side Monaco in 1997.
And such was his impact that AC Milan, Inter and Barcelona were all lining up for his signature.
The 23-year-old has since lived up to the interest with a series of mature displays for both Barça and France.
Roger Lemerre has already singled him out as the future of France's central defence and the World Cup could provide the perfect springboard.
Joan would later find out about Philippe's concentration problems the hard way.
Eight years later, as William Gallas and Éric Abidal attempted to shut out the vuvuzela-infested atmosphere, Christanval was at home—instead of playing in a World Cup game against Uruguay in front of 64,000 people—he had hang up his boots.
It's a fickle world for up and coming centre-backs joining foreign leagues with expectations to be elite.
Barça were adamant that Dmytro Chygrynskiy would fare better than Christanval—so adamant, the Blaugrana paid Shakhtar Donetsk €25 million. The Catalonian club sold him a season later.
Valérien Ismaël, Crystal Palace's record signing in 1998, said hello and bye in the same year.
Manchester City knew Stefan Savić needed time to adjust, he had been named in the Serbian SuperLiga Team of the Year the season before, but they didn't envision him transforming into the Montenegrin Titus Bramble.
Benfica have all but given up on Sidnei.
Chelsea management expected resolute performances from David Luiz, only to be left frustrated by his unique approach to defending i.e. playing as a quasi-No. 10 or imitating Cristiano Ronaldo's stepovers.
What about former Bayern Munich player Breno? He's in jail.
So, before you jump on the Kurt Zouma bandwagon, read this slide again.