Impressive Kurt Zouma may save Chelsea millions by replacing John Terry

Frenchman impressed against Shrewsbury on Tuesday

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Chelsea’s search for the centre-back who will fill the considerable void left when John Terry eventually reaches the end of the road will become more straightforward if Kurt Zouma can fulfil the potential he underlined for the second time in Chelsea’s Capital One Cup campaign, as a team consisting largely of shadow players did just enough to eliminate Shrewsbury in Tuesday’s fourth-round tie.

Jose Mourinho has been linked with a £24m move for Barcelona’s Gerard Pique as a potential replacement for Terry, who will be 34 in December and who is contracted only until next summer, yet the Chelsea manager may ask himself if he really needs to move in that direction after Zouma followed up an impressive performance against Bolton in the third round with another encouraging display.

With Terry on the bench, Zouma revealed advanced maturity both in a physical and temperamental sense.

The former St Etienne player stayed in France for the remainder of last season after his £12.5m signing in January and remained unused by Chelsea until he was selected to face Bolton at Stamford Bridge last month, when he scored the opening goal. He played the full 90 minutes of the Champions League match against Maribor too, but Tuesday’s match was his first start away from Stamford Bridge.

He is tall and strong, has good anticipation and a useful turn of pace, which enables him to play in a high defensive line and track back quickly, while he clearly knows how to impose himself in the opposition penalty area. The goal against Bolton drew comparisons with Terry for the way he attacked the ball.

He turned 20 on Monday, yet looks older physically and seemed unfazed by what was an intimidating atmosphere at Shrewsbury’s tight ground.

 

Gary Cahill, alongside him against the League Two side, believes Zouma is already doing enough to have the senior defenders looking over their shoulders.

“He is a big guy, powerful, good in the air, a fantastic talent for one so young,” Cahill said. “Every time he has been asked to play he has done really well and he gives the manager another option. You never feel at this club that the shirt is your own.”

Mourinho believes leading scorer Diego Costa will have recovered from hamstring problems to face Queen’s Park Rangers at Stamford Bridge on Saturday, when Ramires could also play for the first time in almost six weeks.

Yet the manager may find it difficult to leave out Didier Drogba. “The more games he plays, the more he looks the player he was when he left,” Cahill said. Despite completing the full 90 minutes for the second time in three days, Drogba scored for the third time in as many games to put Chelsea ahead and almost certainly would have had his name against their late winner had Jermaine Grandison not put the ball into his own net in his effort to stop the Ivorian reaching Willian’s cross.

Mourinho could not praise Drogba highly enough, yet it has been André Schürrle and Mohamed Salah to whom he had been looking. Schürrle, a German World Cup winner, failed to impose himself and the same could be said of Salah, the £11m Egyptian.

“It’s easy for me to choose my team for Saturday,” Mourinho said, pointedly.

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