Atletico Madrid have emerged as another contender for the signature of Chelsea defender Kurt Zouma, according to reports in Spain.
Zouma has found himself at the centre of a transfer battle recently, despite being willing to stay at Chelsea. The Frenchman has been with the Blues since 2014, making 150 appearances either side of loan spells with Saint-Etienne, Stoke City and Everton. However, there has been growing speculation about an exit over the past week or so.
Chelsea reportedly tried to send Zouma to Sevilla as a makeweight in their opening bid for Jules Kounde. The attempt wasn’t quite successful, although both players remain in line to move. Kounde is Chelsea’s major target at present and they will be hoping to get a deal done with or without Zouma going the other way.
The 26-year-old has been linked with some other destinations instead of Sevilla, too. For example, West Ham were willing to offer him a move across London. He seems just out of reach financially for them, though.
But Zouma is back on the transfer agenda in Spain, where Atletico are the latest team to be linked. According to Fichajes, he is one of three options they are considering to strengthen their defence.
The others are Benoit Badiashile of Monaco and Nico Elvedi of Borussia Monchengladbach. However, Zouma is the first name mentioned in the report and is said to be Atletico’s top target.
Fichajes claim the Spanish champions admire him because of his “physique and forcefulness”. Chelsea “intend to part with” him this summer to make room for Kounde, so he could well be available for the right price.
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Zouma has two years remaining on his Chelsea contract, so it could be an optimum time for them to sell him before his value diminishes too much.
He played 24 times in the Premier League last season, with nine of those appearances coming after the arrival of Thomas Tuchel as coach in January. Whether he will add any more under the German tactician is in increasing doubt.
‘Kounde is the future’
Chelsea need to sell one centre-back to allow Kounde to join, with Zouma looking the likely casualty.
While the latter has done reasonably well for the club, the Sevilla man would be an upgrade – an opinion backed up by a former Chelsea man.
“(Kounde) is a fantastic player,” Frank Leboeuf told ESPN. “He has everything and he is a warrior and he never gives up. He has everything and is the future for sure.
“Maybe it’s an opportunity for Chelsea to get him maybe not this season, but next season.
“I don’t know what Kounde wants to do in his life, if he’s ready to be on the bench more than he thinks he will be. It’s up to him. It would be a good signing for Chelsea.”