Chelsea must be considered favourites to land Saint-Etienne defender Kurt Zouma this year after the centre-back lifted the lid on recent talks with Jose Mourinho.
Per Gary Jones of the Daily Star, Zouma has had "advanced contact" with the Portuguese manager, and if a winter move doesn't come to pass, this summer would seem a likely juncture:
Well, it's true. There has been an advanced contact. At first I thought it was a joke. But I quickly took his call seriously. A great man like Jose Mourinho phoning a small player like Kurt Zouma, it's nice.
It does not happen to you every day and it is a great sign of respect and trust. I will always take Chelsea. I loved this club since childhood and blue is my favourite colour.
In my head, it is clear: I want a change. When going abroad, it's make or break. But it is a risk worth taking.
The 19-year-old doesn't mince his words regarding a potential Ligue 1 departure, with Stamford Bridge seemingly one of his preferred destinations, if not at the very peak of the list.
Chelsea's current centre-back situation is strong. John Terry and Gary Cahill provide stability in the centre of defence this season, relegating David Luiz largely to the bench, even when the Brazilian has been free from injury.
However, an air of uncertainty sits around this part of the pitch, too. Terry's deal with the Blues expires at the end of this season, and it's currently uncertain as to what Mourinho means to do with the 33-year-old.
Luiz, meanwhile, continues to be linked with the Chelsea exit door. The Independent's Jack De Menezes reported that Barcelona are once again raising interest in his services.
Should either of the West London stalwarts leave the club, it would make Zouma's acquisition all the more plausible, although the Frenchman could still provide cover behind those names, with Luiz filling in at defensive midfield.
The teenager is edging closer to the French national team and is known for his physical assets, although his technical ability, or lack thereof, has been cited as a potential weakness.
BT Sport's Julien Laurens gives a brief rundown of the starlet's current situation:
It's that physical edge that recently landed Zouma in hot water, too. A dangerous tackle on Sochaux's Thomas Guerbert led to a 10-match ban for the youngster, his over-exuberance getting the best of him on that occasion.
That being said, at just 19 years of age, there remains plenty of time for such rough edges to be rounded out, and Mourinho is hoping to be the man tasked with such a job.
Saint-Etienne may be able to cope with the loss, as well, given OptaJean's recent statistical breakdown:
For now, Zouma remains committed to his French surroundings, and he recently made his league return in the 2-0 win over Lille.
That being said, it may not be long until the player finds his talents lending themselves to the English top flight, as Chelsea hope to strengthen their bid for the Premier League title.
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