French Ligue One side AS Saint-Etienne have issued a hands-off warning to Premier League side Chelsea, following reported interest in their young centre-back Kurt Zouma from the Europa League winners.
His playing style has already drawn comparisons to ex-Chelsea and France centreback Marcel Desailly – a player Zouma is said to have idolised grown up.
The London side are said to be the hot favourites to procure his signature this summer, but the Blues will be met with stubborn resistance from Saint-Etienne.
Les Verts are keen on keeping Zouma for at least a further season as they feel his development will benefit from regular first-team football.
After the Ligue One side were forced to sell striker Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang this summer to raise funds, the manager Christophe Galtier was assured by Saint-Etienne no other players had to leave the club in the coming weeks.
‘We’ve been very clear. There was only one player given permission to leave – Aubameyang. No other player will leave this season, because Zouma has great potential to improve a lot. We want to keep him this season.’ – Saint-Etienne president Roland Romeyer.
However, continual interest in Zouma doesn’t look like dying down while the summer transfer window is open, and a lucrative offer for the youngster could convince Les Verts to sell him.
The 18-year old French defender has featured for the France U20s and is tipped to pick up his first cap for the senior squad next season. He made 18 league appearances for Saint-Etienne last season – scoring two goals.
With the 2014 World Cup looming at the end of next season, Zouma will be under no illusions that he stands a greater chance of making the squad should he playing at a higher level.
The risk of a move for the 18-year old will be if he can get enough playing time next season, as he wants to put himself in contention for a call-up for his country. Should he sign for Chelsea this summer, a season-long loan to another Premier League side might be on the cards in order to get first-team football.