When Kurt Zouma leapt into the air to help end Liverpool’s unbeaten Premier League run on Sunday, Chelsea supporters would have naturally been celebrating seeing a title rival stumble.
But beyond that, Zouma’s successful start to a new chapter in east London is only one of several stories of beloved former players enjoying a new lease of life this season away from Stamford Bridge.
Over in Italy, Tammy Abraham at Roma and Fikayo Tomori with AC Milan are thriving with their new clubs and continuing to prove the talent they showed at their boyhood clubs before being forced to move elsewhere.
The trio all faced similar issues before having to make the difficult decision to depart Chelsea in the summer transfer window.
Zouma was a regular starter under Frank Lampard in 2020 when the Blues were deploying a 4-3-3 formation that suited the French international’s defensive style more, working well for a period alongside Thiago Silva in the first half of the 2020/21 campaign.
Though following Lampard’s dismissal in late January and the arrival of Thomas Tuchel, fortunes quickly turned for Zouma who found himself regularly on the bench. After starting 15 of Chelsea’s first 17 Premier League fixtures preceding Christmas, the centre-back would only go onto start in seven of the second half of the league season, only playing once in Tuchel’s triumphant Champions League winning run.
Zouma was expected to remain a fringe figure given Tuchel’s reliance on the likes of Antonio Rudiger, Andreas Christensen, Cesar Azpilicueta and Thiago Silva. The chances of him breaking in appeared far fetched, likely having to rely on infrequent chances in the Carabao Cup or Champions League group games to gain minutes.
Marina Granovskaia negotiated a decent fee of £29.8m to sell Zouma to West Ham where the 26-year-old would quickly slot into David Moyes first choice defence alongside Angelo Ogbonna. Zouma’s first Hammers goal on Sunday helped his new team move above Liverpool, now sitting only three points behind his previous club at the top of the table.
Supporters have always recognised the talent within Zouma as a centre-back believing he could turn into one of Europe’s best, and even though that reality couldn’t be realised at Chelsea due to circumstances out of his control, with West Ham Zouma now has the spot he always craved and is thriving.
Even considering Chelsea’s rivalry with West Ham, the infectious character of Zouma is hard to simply brush off, given the fact his connection with the club tracks back to his signing in 2014 under Jose Mourinho.
The near career-threatening cruciate ligament injury suffered in 2016 could have derailed Zouma’s promising start but his incredible fightback through loans with Stoke and Everton helped him revive a Chelsea career which looked over. That love for him from Chelsea fans, plus the desire to see him reach his full potential is what makes this season enjoyable beyond what’s happening with Thomas Tuchel.
Fikayo Tomori and Tammy Abraham are doing similar in Serie A, proving why they were so highly rated by Chelsea fans despite having to move away from England to further their own development.
Just like you, we can’t get enough of Chelsea! That’s why we’ve decided to supplement our expansive Chelsea coverage on football.london with a more fan-oriented platform catered specifically to Chelsea fans – CareFreeChelsea.
Writers and presenters who share your passion for the Blues will be producing written, visual and audio content to reflect the mood in the stands as well as the press box.
In the overly tribalistic social media world, it is easy to be selfish and only care about what is happening at your club. You can take a pretty shallow approach of dismissing players when they depart, but that is missing the connections you forge as a fan to the many players who pass through your club in the years supporting them.
There has been pleasure found this season in being able to step out of the Chelsea bubble to follow the exploits of Zouma, Abraham and Tomori, who I all loved watching play for my club and have a desire to see them flourish in their new chapters.
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