Kenneth Omeruo despite being such a young footballer has paid his dues. He has featured in the Golden Eaglets ( under 17 ), Flying Eagles ( under 20) and is currently a starting centre back for the Super Eagles of Nigeria at just 20 years old.
He started his journey with Sunshine stars of Akure, before signing up with Standard liege of Belgium. In January 2012 after a personal recommendation from Chelsea’s director of football Michael Emenalo, the blues signed Kenneth from Standard and subsequently loaned him to Ado Den Haag in the Dutch Eredivise.
On the 7th of January 2014, after a successful 18 month loan spell in the Erevidise, Omeruo was loaned to English championship side Middlesbrough FC. He was at this time touted as the best young defender Chelsea had. This all changed later that month as Chelsea made the signing of highly rated Frenchman, Kurt Zouma for a 12million pounds fee. With this signing, the way to Chelsea’s backline became a lot stiffer for the young Nigerian, as Tomas Kalas a relatively unknown loanee also returned from Viteese in the Erevidise and later that season, put up a strong performance against an amazing Liverpool attack.
Kurt Zouma had been a starter for French ligue 1 side Saint- Etienne since he was seventeen. Making him, one of the most highly rated centre backs in France before his move to England. However, an analysis of the two defenders reveals certain key elements in comparing or contrasting them.
Kurt Zouma is the probably one of the most physically gifted defenders in the world. However that is only one aspect of what a defender should have. Kurt’s reading of the game is poor, as his mistakes in Chelsea colours during their pre-season tour revealed. His positioning is suspect and his tracking of opposition players sometimes leaves him marking air. Although it is not worthy to include the fact, that there are few players in football that Zouma would lose to in a physical match up.
Kenneth Omeruo however is a different type of defender. I’ve seen his pace let him down a few times and have also watched him lose aerial duels he should easily have won, but that’s where it ends. Kenneth is very physical; he is good in the air albeit not excellent and is fantastic at reading the game. Kenneth unlike Zouma is a starter at the highest level in international football and hasn’t looked overwhelmed or out of place when I watched him go to toe to toe against the likes of Cavani, Drogba, Suarez, Higuain during international duty with Nigeria.
Kenneth is a lad with a great football brain while Zouma is the guy with great Athleticism, who at only 19 could still improve the mental part of his game. In fact both of these defenders have age on their sides and can still grow to become better defenders. In any discussion about defenders, it should be noted that players in their position play for longer periods of time than other outfield players. Which goes to show, that brains and not brawns is the most important skill of the trade for centre backs.
Chelsea in today’s football is the hub of new and exciting young talent. That they will usually just sell for a profit later. Chelsea will reinforce whether or not they have exciting new talents. As links to both Varane and Benatia this summer, have proven.
However, as far as breaking into Chelsea’s first team goes, both Kenneth Omeruo and Kurt Zouma have a good chance of breaking into the team as veteran defenders Branislav Ivanovic and John Terry are both over 30 years of age.
A partnership of brains and brawns at centre back is for me, one that produces exceptional chemistry and has been known to get the best out of both players, whilst enabling them learn from each other. The possibility of such a partnership between the two young players in question should be explored in the future. Examples of its successes include Terry-Carlvaho, Maldini-Nesta to name a few…
Omeruo and Zouma both represent some of football’s most exciting talents. As usual, the ball is in Chelsea’s court.