Kurt Zouma: Are you Rio in disguise?
First of all, let me clear a few things up.
Whenever I mention Kurt Zouma on Twitter, I get a few questions regarding who he is and where he plays so here is a short and sweet explanation from an article I wrote for Sport Witness a few months back: “Kurt Zouma, born October 27th 1994, is the perfect example of a meteoric rise in the world of football. Getting his first start at the age of 16 for Saint-Etienne, the French club have never really looked back since. Very quickly finding a place in the hearts of fans due to lively and mature performances, the bulky defender (1.85m/87kg) started 16 games for ASSE, making a grand total of 24 appearances in his first season for the first team.”
Now, as some of you may know, the subject of the ins and outs of football is something that I take a great interest in and the Zouma saga is one I have been following in particular. Why? Simply because I believe that Kurt Zouma is a player destined to achieve great things in the world of football. As the description above shows, Kurt Zouma is a player who started his first team career before most. Now aged 18, Kurt has had a rather unfortunate season with a few niggling injuries. Despite this, he has managed to start 10 games for Saint-Etienne, impressing each and every time.
Now onto the main part and the question most Manchester United fans have on their mind.
Do we need him?
My answer is rather straightforward and simple: Yes. Manchester United cannot afford to pass up yet another cheap and extremely talented player in the summer. The list has grown too long and depressing.
Whilst many view Chris Smalling as the natural replacement for Rio Ferdinand, I do not. Despite impressing lately, I firmly believe that Chris Smalling will remain a squad player at Manchester United, filling in for the likes of Rafael at right-back and for the centre-back pair. For me, there is one perfect player to replace Rio and that person is Kurt Zouma. Before you all get your pitchforks out and start making effigies out of Anderson’s body with my name on it, let Chris Atkins from The Elastico explain to you why Zouma has what it takes to be successful wherever he goes:
“When it comes to describing Zouma’s style of play, it would be easy to over-emphasise the physical attributes that he brings to the team. After all, he is a man-mountain, as well as being blessed with acceleration that belies his sizeable frame. However, it should not be ignored that the centre-back’s game shows great maturity for a player of his age. Indeed, a quick look at the statistics (whoscored.com) will tell you that whilst he makes considerably fewer tackles than his defensive colleagues, Zouma makes an astonishing number of clearances, blocked shots and interceptions each game - testament to his acute ability to read the game.
Indeed, given his physique and maturity of play, it would be difficult to work out quite how incredibly young the defender still is without being informed. There are, of course, areas that the defender must improve upon. Perhaps, despite how obvious his strength is, he could make more of this natural advantage and attempt to rob the ball from the player’s feet more often. Zouma did score twice early on in his debut campaign, but he can also look to be more forceful in the air and attempt to contribute more in an attacking sense from set pieces. However, the fact remains that Zouma plays with an authority that is rare in one so young, he displays intelligence in his positioning and, when in possession, is comfortable bringing the ball out of defence and receiving the ball in tight situations. A fine, all-round prospect.”
Now comes the inevitable question: Where would he fit?
As I have previously stated, I do not believe that Chris Smalling possesses the potential to become a regular first team player for Manchester United (If I’m wrong, come back to this article in 3 years time and rub it in my face. I’ll have deserved it) and I believe that (recent selections point to this) Phil Jones will be remoulded into a defensive midfielder over the next season. This leaves only Jonny Evans as the sole quality centre-back at the club once Rio Ferdinand and Nemanja Vidic call it a day, leaving the club with no other choice but to delve once more into the transfer market for a centre-back.
I agree that, at the moment, Zouma isn’t particularly needed, nor do I believe that he is ready for the Premier League (yet); however, a deal similar to Wilfried Zaha’s in the summer could be an option. Zouma needs first team experience to fully develop as a player and loaning him back to Saint-Etienne for another season would be beneficial for both parties. In fact, buying him and loaning him out to any club, even a Premier League one (look at Welbeck and Cleverley) would be useful.
To conclude what was originally set out to be a short article: Do I believe that Manchester United are interested in the player? Yes. Do I believe that this transfer will come to fruition? We are talking about a team managed by Sir Alex Ferguson here. Anything can happen.