Chelsea boss Frank Lampard claims he decided to keep hold of Kurt Zouma during the summer transfer window because he “believed” in his talents.
Zouma spent the 2018-19 campaign on loan at Everton, racking up 32 appearances in total to help Marco Silva’s side finish eighth in the Premier League.
The Toffees were eager to sign the Frenchman on a permanent deal, but after coming in to replace Maurizio Sarri in the Stamford Bridge hot seat, Lampard made sure that the defender remained on Chelsea’s books.
The 25-year-old has featured in nine Premier League matches for the Blues this season, helping them rise to fourth in the standings while forging a formidable partnership with Fikayo Tomori in the heart of the defence.
Ahead of a Carabao Cup fourth-round clash against Manchester United on Wednesday, Lampard hailed Zouma for rewarding his faith in him after a summer of intense transfer speculation.
“He has been fantastic,” Lampard told a pre-match press conference – as per Goal. “There was a belief that I had in Kurt because there was interest in the summer after we all know he had a very good loan at Everton last year.
“But I believed in him as I believed in Tomori – that is why I made the decisions I made pre-season in terms of where we were going to look defensively.
“It has been nice to get some stability, albeit because of injuries, between him and Fikayo in the last games.
“It has been good to get them playing together to see the little bond they are getting on and off the pitch. It is a nice little story and it must continue, I suppose.”
Zouma’s season has been full of positives so far, with the only real low point coming when he was subjected to racist abuse on social media following his own goal against Sheffield United on August 31, which saw Chelsea held to a surprise 2-2 draw at the Bridge.
Lampard went on to reveal a conversation with Zouma following the incident during which he offered his support, before commending the defender for his strength of character to ignore any hateful comments from a select group of fans.
“Well, yes [I spoke to him about the abuse], because I do that with all the players,” Lampard added. “But it was not as though I had to go to speak to Kurt to pick him up. That would have been reactionary.
“I am always trying to speak about a performance or a day in training. However, I see [racism], so it is not an out of the blue thing. I try to have those conversations.
“But Kurt is one of those players, as I mentioned, who just gets on with it. I think he is well-intentioned. He wants to do well, as they all do, and he is working hard and playing well.”