New order: Zouma has leapfrogged Cahill in the Chelsea centre-back pecking order

By Russell Edge

Chelsea are planning to loan out Kurt Zouma in order to accommodate potential summer signing Virgil van Dijk into the squad, according to a report.

The Telegraph claim that Antonio Conte is prepared to allow the centre-back to depart on a temporary basis to give him playing time, with the club reportedly interested in bringing Southampton defender van Dijk to Stamford Bridge.

Southampton are understood to want £50million for their star defender.

22-year-old Zouma has spent much of the season as back up to the likes of Gary Cahill and David Luiz, but has played his part with 15 appearances across all competitions for the Blues.

Chelsea have already confirmed the departure of John Terry this summer, which leaves Cahill, Luiz and Nathan Ake as direct competitors for Zouma’s place, although Cesar Azpilicueta has operated as a right-sided centre back this season and Andreas Christensen has been on loan.

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The potential arrival of van Dijk would see at least six players fighting for three starting positions in Antonio Conte’s 3-4-3 system, and it would appear that two-time-capped French international Zouma is at the bottom of the pile.

Football Insider verdict: 

Sending Kurt Zouma out on loan might be a wise move from Antonio Conte, especially with van Dijk a reported target. Zouma has not lived up to his usual high standards when playing this season, perhaps as a result of Conte’s 3-4-3 formation. At 22-years-old, the French international needs to be starting games and developing himself as a player, something which will not happen sitting on the bench at Stamford Bridge. If Conte can find a club which play in a similar system to his own, then sending Zouma there will only help him with his career at the Blues. 

In other Chelsea news, clubs are circling around Stamford Bridge to snap up this fringe player.

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