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Chelsea in pole position to bring in St Etienne defender

| 18.01.2014

Chelsea look to have stolen a march on London rivals Arsenal in the race to sign St Etienne defender Kurt Zouma.

The France under-21 international is set to leave the Stade Geoffroy-Guichard next summer and has hinted at the possibility of joining the west London outfit.

And it looks as if Jose Mourinho’s intervention has made all the difference with the Blues, who are 5/2 to win the title with Ladbrokes, now favourites for the 19-year-old’s signature.

“There was advanced contact last month,” Zouma told L’Equipe.

“At the start I thought it was a joke but afterwards I quickly took his call seriously.

“When a great man like Jose Mourinho calls a little player like Kurt Zouma, it’s nice. It doesn’t happen every day and it’s a big sign of respect and confidence,” he added.

Arsenal, who are 4/1 to win the Premier League,  have been long-time admirers of the French defender but with John Terry coming towards the end of his career, the west Londoners have stepped up their pursuit of the youngster, who is contracted with Les Verts until 2017.

The under-20 World Cup winner insists he has got an agreement with his current club about leaving in the summer and reports suggest a deal is already in place to take him to Stamford Bridge.

Zouma, who is preparing to return to Ligue 1 action following a 10-match suspension for a leg-breaking tackle on Sochaux’s Thomas Geurbert, is also attracting the interest of big-spending Monaco, while Inter Milan have also expressed a desire to take him to the San Siro.

But the ‘Special One’, who has never been beaten in a match by Arsene Wenger’s Arsenal, appears to have given his side the edge yet again over the Gunners as he looks to freshen up an ageing Blues defence.

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Oliver Yew