Napoli are reportedly planning to make a move for Chelsea centre-back Kurt Zouma in January as they look to bring in cover for Kalidou Koulibaly, who will be away at the 2017 Africa Cup of Nations early in the year.
According to Marco Frattino of TuttoMercatoWeb (h/t Anthony Chapman in the Sun), Blues boss Antonio Conte tried to sign Koulibaly last summer, but it is Napoli who are now looking to snap up one of Chelsea's brightest young defenders.
Zouma is nearing a return to first-team action having been sidelined since suffering a knee-ligament injury in February.
He played for Chelsea's under-23 side against Oxford United recently and looked in decent shape considering the length of his lay-off, per Goal's Nizaar Kinsella:
Nizaar Kinsella @NizaarKinsella
Kurt Zouma looked pretty strong tonight. Obviously not the highest level but 90 mins against a group of senior players at Oxford. #CFC2016-11-8 21:58:26
Zouma, 22, is physical and fast and has long been touted as the long-term successor to John Terry as the talisman in Chelsea's defence, per Metro's Kristian Downer.
However, in his absence, Conte has found a superb back three combination of David Luiz, Gary Cahill and Cesar Azpilicueta, who have not conceded a goal in the Blues' last five Premier League outings.
Zouma will find it hard to force his way back into the first team, but that does not mean Conte and Chelsea will be open to letting him leave for Napoli.
Terry, 35, is likely in his final season at Chelsea, while Cahill and Luiz have both been guilty of making costly errors in the past.
Zouma remains the future of Chelsea's defensive unit, and any attempt from Napoli in January to sign the France international is likely to be rejected out of hand by the Blues.
The Frenchman has made only four starts for Inter in Serie A so far this season as the Nerazzurri have won just five of their opening 12 matches in 2016-17—they currently sit ninth in the table, 13 points off the top.
Per Lewis, defensive midfielder Kondogbia, who can also operate as a defender, is not happy with being used so sparingly and wants to leave the San Siro.
"I want to be playing and to be happy," he recently said, per Lewis. "It’s normal that if the situation does not sort itself out, it would become difficult not to think about other things."
Chelsea could be looking to take advantage of the situation by moving for the 23-year-old, and Kondogbia's power and versatility could make him an excellent addition to Conte's squad.