Kurt Zouma: Why ditching Chelsea for West Ham could be the making of French defender

·2 min read
Kurt Zouma made his first home start for West Ham against Manchester United  (Manchester United via Getty Images)
Kurt Zouma made his first home start for West Ham against Manchester United (Manchester United via Getty Images)

West Ham had to clear many hurdles in their pursuit of Kurt Zouma but, after just two appearances in claret and blue, it is clear their efforts were not in vain.

Negotiations with Chelsea and Zouma’s representatives were fraught, dragging across the summer before a four-year deal for David Moyes’s first-choice defensive target was finally completed in Paris at the end of the transfer window.

Jesse Lingard proved last season — and with his goalscoring return to West Ham on Sunday for Manchester United — what stepping away from one of the ‘Big Six’ can do for a player’s career, and Zouma looks likely to follow suit following his £29.8million move.

Moyes often takes his time bedding in his signings — Said Benrahma and, to a lesser extent, Jarrod Bowen were eased in following moves from the Championship, but Zouma has been asked to hit the ground running.

After watching from the bench at Southampton, the Champions League winner was thrown in at the deep end at Dinamo Zagreb for the Europa League opener last Thursday before facing up to Cristiano Ronaldo on Sunday.

He excelled on both occasions and it was no coincidence that Ronaldo’s goal came only after he had moved well away from Zouma.

“It was good, it was another battle like any battle,” Zouma said of his tussle with Ronaldo. “He is one of the best players in the world, maybe the best, and he deserves your focus all the time.”

The 26-year-old is an instant upgrade on Craig Dawson, who was a shrewd addition on loan from Watford last season but has begun to decline.

Moyes wants players befitting a club who finished sixth in the League and, in Zouma, he certainly has that, someone who — along with Declan Rice — can set a higher standard.

On Sunday, Zouma made more than twice as many clearances than any other player on the pitch as well as two crucial interventions to stop Ronaldo adding to his tally.

“I thought Kurt was very good,” Moyes said after the Frenchman’s home debut.

“I think his all-around performance, his strength, he did a great job for us and we’re trying to challenge the teams getting talked about winning the Premier League. I think Kurt will help us do that.”

Zouma has settled well on and off the pitch, striking up a close bond with the French-speaking group, including international team-mate and fellow summer signing, Alphonse Areola.

“I met a very good family here, my new family and my new home,” said Zouma. “I am very happy to be here.

“The fans were so loud. I want to make them happy, not by the result [against United] but by the way we play.”

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