• Premier League

Mourinho told me to be ready at any time, says Zouma

ESPN staff
September 4, 2014
Kurt Zouma says his bulky physique makes him a figure of fun at Chelsea © Getty Images

Jose Mourinho has warned Kurt Zouma he will have to be ready to hit the ground running if he is to flourish in the Premier League.

Zouma, 19, joined Chelsea from Saint-Etienne in January but was immediately loaned back to the Ligue 1 club.

Now at Stamford Bridge on a permanent basis, Zouma said that he hopes to emulate Real Madrid's Raphael Varane, who grew into a world-class defender under Mourinho when the Portuguese was in charge at the Bernabeu.

Varane, 21, was promising but little-known when he arrived at Madrid from Lens on the recommendation of Zinedine Zidane in 2011. And he was given little time to settle in after being thrown in at the deep end by Mourinho in a Champions League tie with Manchester City at the start of his second campaign with the Spanish giants.

"[Mourinho] told me, 'Varane, I made him start straightaway against City. You have to be ready at any time'," Zouma told French newspaper l'equipe. "I take Varane and Eliaquim Mangala as models. Today, they're in the senior team, I hope to join them.

"Euro 2016 is an objective I have set myself. Even if places will be hard-earned, I'm aware of that. The door is not far.

"When I was at Saint-Etienne and I didn't play, I immediately got annoyed. But I've learned.

"Now, there are experienced players, stars in my position, and they do very good work. I take my time. I learn alongside these defenders. I know my time will come."

Zouma's potential was clear to many of Europe's biggest clubs, despite him playing just 52 Ligue 1 game for Saint-Etienne. City and Manchester United were among the defender's suitors, but he opted for Stamford Bridge having been a Chelsea fan since childhood.

A massive wall of muscle, Zouma should be scared of little, but he acknowledged walking into a dressing room with the likes of John Terry, Petr Cech, and Didier Drogba left him overwhelmed, while his imposing physique has even made him a figure of fun for the rest of the squad.

"They're great players that you see on TV, that you choose on PlayStation. At the start, you almost say to yourself that you can't even approach them," Zouma said. "Diego Costa, he's very, very crazy. Sometimes, he gives me a little tap on the back of the head, and says: 'Let me past'."

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