The emergence of France as a market for high quality signings is not a surprise. The abundance of talent in the country is mostly thanks to the deconstruction and subsequent reconstruction of the ruling footballing structure in the 80’s that transformed France into World and European champions in 1998 and 2000. With a renewed focus on youth development, France produced the golden generation – Henry, Zidane, Deschamps, Thuram which helped them to the trophies but that development did not stopped as it continued to pump out quality players like Cabaye, Ribery, M’Vila and Benzema. With the latest batch of youngsters is just as exciting (Sahko, Pogba, Varane and Kondogbia), the future looks bright for France.
Kurt Zouma is another example of this bright future. The 18 year old Saint Etienne centre half has been in outstanding form this season and rightfully so has been attracting interest. Juventus, Bayern Munich, Atletico Madrid and Liverpool have all had scouts present at St Etienne games this season as they keep a close eye on Zouma’s progress. Valued at $7 million, the France under 21 internationalists would prove to be a snip if anyone was able to pry him away from his current club. Any contract would have to make sense to the talented youngster who has a different approach than most in his situation. Zouma is happy playing and developing at St. Etienne and wants that to continue. Cautious of moving to a larger club only to sit on the bench, Zouma believes it’s in his best interest to stay in the south of France and continue to play regularly for St Etienne.
Zouma’s stance will not deter the likes of Arsene Wenger, Antonio Conte or Alan Pardew who see Zouma as an ideal fix to their defensive frailties. All three have suffered in the past few seasons from defensive glitches and are looking for long term solutions to ease their concerns. As a powerful yet composed centre half who can also play at right back if needed, Zouma would be a long term replacement for the likes of Per Mertesacker, Fabricio Coloccini or Andrea Barzagli. All three clubs can afford to wait until next summer to make their move which might give them enough time to persuade Zouma that a move away from St Etienne would be beneficial to his development.
Current France head coach Didier Deschamps is also a keen admirer of the young centre half and has recently cited Zouma as a future Les Blues captain. He sees the pairing of Zouma and Real Madrid’s Raphaël Varane as France’s long term future and has compared the potential partnership to the Desailly/Thuram pairing of yesteryear. Praise indeed for the 18 year old that has been called up for the national side but never played. But having been capped at all levels for France from Under 16’S upwards, it’s surely only a matter of time before he does make his full international debut. Zouma will be hoping that the call up comes in advance of the World Cup in Brazil to give him the best chance possible to creep into the squad that goes but he will be safe in the knowledge that if he doesn’t, it won’t be his only chance. With Euro 2016 on home soil in France, it might be more reasonable for the 18 year old to set his sights on this tournament to make his berth. By that time, Zouma will be 22 and likely an established fixture in the squad, if not captain. Whether he will still be at St Etienne is a different story.