Former Saint-Etienne stars Bafetimbi Gomis, Blaise Matuidi and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang all went on to bigger and better things after spells at the Stade Geoffroy-Guichard and Chelsea are set to battle it out with a number of top clubs for the signature of the latest youngster to roll of Les Verts’ conveyor belt – centre-half Kurt Zouma.
The Blues are 13/20 to be leading at the end of both halves when they host Cardiff, but their super-organised manager Jose Mourinho is already planning for next season and could move for the highly-rated Lyon native as early as January.
Despite not yet reaching his 19th birthday Zouma has already made 48 appearances in the French top-flight.
A recurring knee injury limited the youngster to 18 Ligue 1 appearances last term, but Zouma played a key part in Saint-Etienne’s glorious and ultimately successful French League Cup campaign, with the club lifting a trophy for the first time in over thirty years.
The youngster has started seven of his club’s nine games this season in the French top-flight and came on as a substitute in one of the other two fixtures, as Saint-Etienne look to build on their impressive fifth-place finish last season.
Les Bleus coach Didier Deschamps believes the centre-half has what it takes to captain France some day.
Zouma was mightily impressive in his countries run to the Under-20 World Cup final in Turkey during the summer, scoring in the 4-0 quarter-final win against Uzbekistan and forming part of a solid French rearguard that kept out Uruguay in the final, which France won on penalties.
Such praise from Deschamps is particularly pertinent considering he has highly-rated youngsters Raphael Varane and Eliaquim Mangala operating in the same position and Zouma received his first call-up to the seniors for France’s last World Cup 2014 qualifier against Finland, although he did not get off the bench.
Mourinho faces competition from the cream of Europe for the player’s scrawl.
Saint-Etienne insist they are under no pressure to sell and would like their defensive gem to sign a new deal at the club, but with a clutch of Europe’s elite clubs vying for Zouma’s services a January mega-bid could force their hand.
Juventus, Monaco and Bayer Leverkusen have all been credited with an interest in the centre-back, but the Blues may find Premier League rivals Manchester United the most difficult rivals for his signature to shake off as David Moyes is reportedly determined to bring Zouma to Old Trafford.