France has been producing talented young footballers for many years. Youngsters have come through the academies and burst on to the professional scene. Many have made the move abroad to enhance their careers. Varane was a prime example to follow for young French footballers as he has cemented his place in the Real Madrid side as a teenager, moving from the Ligue 1. Kurt Zouma is the next young star to come through from the Western European country.
Kurt Zouma, hit the scene when joining the club’s youth setup back in 2009. He impressed in the youth team along the way, enjoying a good cup run and featuring in the Coupe Gambardella. During his stints in the youth team, his performances didn’t go far amiss from the French setup and was called up to the U-17 national squad to play in the sizzling heat of Mexico, in the U17 World Cup. After glowing reports in the youth setup, Zouma made his debut to the Les Verts squad at the beginning of the 2011-2012, at aged just 16, which is incredible considering a centre back is often needed to be the most experienced part of the team.
Zouma, when beginning his Ligue 1 career, didn’t even have his name on the back of his shirt. This was because Coach Galtier wanted to protect Zouma and keep him out of the spotlight, and prevent any unnecessary hype around the player. The potential for him was there straight from the bat. Everyone at Saint Etienne, knew he has the ability to become a great player. French Football Weekly have compared Zouma to world-cup winner, Marcel Desailly.
On his future international career, who knows it all depends on how he grows as a player, as France have a current conveyor belt of young talent and have great depth in young centre backs such as Varane, Sakho, and Mangala.
Kurt Zouma featured in our list of 100 Best Young Players to Watch-out for in 2014. He was at #1 in our list of defenders. See the entire list here.
UPDATE: Kurt Zouma joined Chelsea in Jan 2014 and was loaned back immediately.
Style, Strengths and Weaknesses
Zouma has been described by Saint Etienne legend, Rocheateau, as the “jewel of the academy”. Every time I watch Zouma he seems to become an even better player, he has a lot in the part of his game, that just seem to make him a cut above the rest.
First of all, his physical characteristics for an 18 year old are implausible; being 6 ft 2 and weighing in at 13 stone. His surprisingly quick pace makes him one of the quickest centre backs in the league. It makes him no doubt up for any challenge, if it is a more physical forward or a more pacey forward, he can deal with them with supreme effect. It really is incredible to see how much upper body strength he possesses despite being in his early years. He uses his upper body strength to his advantage in matches; he uses this and accompanies his speed and agility to match up with attackers and dispossess them with his strength. He isn’t the typical old school centre back, as he doesn’t dive into tackles and try and rip his opponent into two. He is more intelligent than that in his defensive duties. Zourma jockeys often as well, a very successful tactic for him and many young defenders, a strategy which is being used more frequently by coaches and is paying off.
He is a calm and collective defender, often playing the ball out of defence with ease and seeming very composed with the ball. He manages to spread the ball well, his pass accuracy for the 14 games in which he has competed in stands at 87% which is impressive. Although he has played a lot less games than his Les Verts counterparts. I definitely think passing is the best attribute about him so far. Despite his plaudits when passing on the deck, I think that his long passes definitely need work on as they are not always accurate, but this part of his game will develop as time goes on.
Decent in the air, and rarely beaten when it comes to the ‘long ball’ approach, attributable to the incredible spring on him. Recently he scored his first goal for Les Verts, a beautiful headed goal from a corner. I would like to see Kurt enforcing a bit more effort going forward down to his natural physical presence. He wins on average about 69% of his duels when featuring for Saint Etienne.
One aspect, that might be deemed worrying is his track record of injuries, he has sustained several injuries during his time at Saint Etienne. I hope this won’t be something that continues if he were to join another club.
Zouma, seems an excellent prospect and many clubs around Europe will have their heads turned, especially because of his current form for Les Verts.
I don’t expect Zouma to stay at the club much longer because of the ever-growing hype around him. I can see a big club coming into him in the summer, There have been rumours of clubs like Manchester Utd, Arsenal and even Bayern Munich, tracking the 18 year old.
The future of Zouma possibly lies in Wenger’s hands in all honesty. If Arsenal are interested and pursue Zouma, I would not be surprised if they ended up clinching the deal because of players from France enjoying so much success at the North London club. I think it will take Zouma a bit of time for him to adapt to the Premier League, but as aforementioned his sheer athletiscm will no doubt aid him in the Premier league.
At this age, I think it would be more beneficial for Zouma if he were to leave the club in the summer to a top flight team, and then re-join Saint Etienne on loan for a season. This works out really well for young players as they get a lot more game time under their belt and will join their new team, looking like a different player.
All will be competing for first team places in the Les Bleus. I definitely wish the best of success for Zouma wherever he goes, he is a great player and character in the dressing room with his post-match dance antics and is a very out-going person, great for any manager to cope with.
This article was written by Saint-Etienne fan @TheSanogoal.
Featured image taken from cantheyscore.com