Kurt Zouma is not yet ready to replace John Terry as Chelsea’s driving force but Jose Mourinho thinks the young defender will one day emerge as a leader on the field.
The Frenchman has exceeded the Special One’s expectations in his debut season at Stamford Bridge and picked up his first trophy in Sunday’s Capital One Cup final triumph.
Zouma was deployed as a makeshift midfielder for the win over Tottenham due to the absence of both Nemanja Matic and John Obi Mikel at Wembley.
It is not a role Chelsea see the 20-year-old playing regularly as the Portuguese believes he is a natural centre-half and real competition for Terry and Cahill.
Mourinho this week guaranteed Terry, 34, will remain at the club next season but he is entering the twilight of his career in west London.
Terry is still the heartbeat of the team but the Blues chief thinks Zouma will be able to stand up and be counted when the team eventually requires him to.
Mourinho said: “Different players [Zouma and Terry] but it will be difficult to find a John replica. Sometimes you get replicas of players, other times you can’t do it. If you can replace him with a replica.
Zouma now is 20. One day Zouma will be a player with great maturity and leadership to replace John because Zouma is playing more than I and he expects this season
“In this moment I see signs of maturity but he doesn’t show leadership. We don’t need that and we don’t demand that of him.
“Naturally, one day when the team ask him that, probably he will have that but in this moment we have Ivanovic, Terry, Cech, Drogba and Fabregas who lead. In this moment the younger guys don’t need to step up.
“We bought him because of his physical profile but we were not happy with his tactical knowledge of the game. We trust we could give that to him.
“I saw mistakes in pre-season. When I saw these mistakes I thought no problem but it will take time. He’s bright, intelligent and he listens to everything so he had an acceleration in this process.”
Zouma has made 17 appearances for Chelsea this season, scoring twice, but he is yet to earn his first international cap for France.
Mourinho is confident that he will be handed that honour sooner rather than later.
He added: “I’m not the French national coach but when you look to their central defenders you see Varane but even in Real Madrid he’s not playing a lot but because I know Varane I can say he is the top of the top.
“After that you have Sakho but he is injured, Koscielny, Zouma and Mangala but he isn’t playing a lot so I wouldn’t be surprised if Zouma gets his first cap.
“In two or three years time, even being very young he will be a stable player.
“He was selected last time, he was on the bench, but he didn’t have his first cap. I believe he will have that sooner or later.”