Zouma reveals 'battle in the shadows' led to Chelsea return
Chelsea defender Kurt Zouma has revealed the fight he went through "in the shadows" to secure a return to the first team at Stamford Bridge.
The France international tore his cruciate ligament against Manchester United in February 2016 and has been on the fringes in west London ever since.
He spent the last two seasons on loan at Stoke City and Everton respectively, and despite interest from the Toffees in a permanent transfer this summer, Frank Lampard chose to keep him at the club.
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An injury to Antonio Rudiger and David Luiz's deadline-day move to Arsenal has opened the door for Zouma to start alongside Andreas Christensen at the heart of the Blues' defence for each of their opening three matches of the campaign.
And the 24-year-old is keen to make up for lost time after becoming the forgotten man under the likes of Antonio Conte and Maurizio Sarri.
"It has been a very, very long journey," Zouma he said. "I don’t want to talk about that now because that is the past, but I fought very hard.
"People don’t know, people don’t see but I was in the shadows, working hard to get back because I had a very, very bad injury.
"I was off for one year but people forget that and don’t see. But for me, I always believed in myself. My family was always there behind me, supporting me and now I am back here, I am very happy to play here. I just want to keep going.
"I came here and wanted to play. I am in a big club and everyone here wants to play. The competition is very hard and you can see in the squad, there are a lot of talented players so when you train, you have to do it right.
"You always have to look over your shoulder. The squad is very talented and the competition can only make us better. Today I play, tomorrow maybe not but I want to play every game. Everyone that is on the pitch wants to stay on the pitch, and we have to work hard for that.
"That’s what I am trying to do and that’s what I am working hard for. I am here. Everything is done now. I have to do my job here and I am happy to be here.
"I just want to work hard and play. That’s what I’m trying to do and the most important thing is the team. We need to start winning games."
Zouma has come under scrutiny in the opening weeks of the campaign after his foul on Marcus Rashford led to the penalty which opened the scoring for Manchester United in their 4-0 win over Chelsea at Old Trafford on the first weekend of the season.
But he insists that he already put that error of judgement behind him as he eyes a long run in the team under Lampard
"Myself, I knew I made mistakes in the first game but it won’t be perfect every game. You have to learn from games. I am still learning.
"After a game like this, you just have to refocus, keep the concentration high and then I think I did right after that by keeping myself ready and prepared. We don’t get the wins but me, I give it my all on the pitch. That’s what I’m here for."
The Blues are still waiting for first win under Lampard after losing the UEFA Super Cup on penalties to Liverpool before their 1-1 draw with Leicester City on Sunday
They head to newly-promoted Norwich City on Saturday looking to end that run without a victory, and Zouma believes that there is plenty more to come for the Blues under their legendary midfielder-turned-coach.
"He wants us to press very high and keep the intensity high. Unfortunately we didn’t do it today [against Leicester] but in the previous game, we did it well I think.
"We just need to score more goals. The work rate has to be high all the time for 90 minutes.
"That’s what we are trying to do and that’s what we have to do next week to win. We were tired. We tried to press but we didn’t have the legs so maybe we have to stay back more, control the game a bit more, try to keep the ball a bit better.
"But these are the things we learn. We will learn throughout the season. There is a long way to go and we are not worried.
"We are Chelsea. We are a big club. We wanted to win today. Unfortunately, we couldn’t and next week has to be a win of course. Every game has to be a win."