Chelsea defender Kurt Zouma is believed to be close to joining Stoke City on loan, with the deal hinging on the Frenchman signing a two-year extension on his contract. The deal would extend Zouma's contract to 2021, allowing the Blues to loan the 22-year-old out to the Potters with the aim of giving the player some invaluable first team experience in the Premier League.
According to reports from L'Équipe, Chelsea boss Antonio Conte has concerns about Zouma's fitness levels following his recent return to the side from a horror knee injury suffered against Manchester United in February 2016. A move to Stoke would allow Conte to analyse Zouma's abilities as a Premier League player, without jeopardising his own side's footballing endeavours.
Zouma's contract extension is likely to be imminent, with a move to the Potters expected on Monday. The French international is a popular figure at Stamford Bridge, having won over the fans with his bustling defensive displays and a relentless determination for making tackles across the pitch. Zouma has made 71 appearances for the Blues since joining the club in 2014.
Chelsea have already signed a new defender ahead of the 2017/18 campaign, bringing in German international powerhouse Antonio Rüdiger for a fee of £29.75m. Rüdiger will compete with David Luiz, Gary Cahill, and César Azpilicueta for a starting spotting in the Blues' back-line next season, meaning that Zouma's chances of regular first team football are currently bleak.
Chelsea are looking to defend their Premier League title next season, having pipped their London rivals Spurs to the post in the last campaign. Conte is thought to be frustrated with the lack of business completed by the west London club so far this summer, however the former Juventus manager will be pleased to have completed the signing of Tiemoué Bakayoko on Saturday.
With the career of striker Diego Costa believed to be finished at Stamford Bridge, the Blues are now in the hunt for a new front-man. Their options are few, but Conte has identified a handful of targets he wishes to pursue. Borussia Dortmund's Pierre Emerick Aubameyang, Torino's Andrea Belotti and Real Madrid's Álvaro Morata have all been linked with moves to Conte's side.