Kurt Zouma looks set to depart Chelsea this summer, with reports suggesting that manager Jose Mourinho is eager to allow the player to once again leave Stamford Bridge on loan.
French defender Zouma joined the Blues from St Etienne for a fee of £12 million towards the latter stages of the January transfer window, before being loaned back to the Ligue 1 outfit for the remainder of the 2013/14 campaign.
Competition is fierce
And while the 19-year-old may now understandably harbour serious ambitions of staking a claim for a first-team place at Chelsea, according to The Daily Star, Mourinho does not yet deem Zouma suitably prepared for this and is keen to see him further his experiences elsewhere on loan.
Chelsea fans are sure to be keen to finally see their purchase in action for the first time, although few would expect him to yet be at the stage where he is able to challenge the club's current first-choice defensive pairing on a consistent basis.
English duo John Terry and Gary Cahill solidified a formidable partnership during Mourinho's first season back in West London, with Chelsea - who conceded just 27 goals - boasting the meanest defence in the entire Premier League by quite some distance.
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Monaco move imminent?
The extent of the list of teams who would be interested in pursuing a temporary switch for Zouma has not been revealed, although The Star further report that wealthy French giants Monaco look set to beat Sunderland to a deal.
With Monaco having qualified for the Champions League following a second-placed domestic finish last season, a move to Stade Louis II could be the ideal learning curve for Zouma if he is to have any hope of sufficiently impressing Mourinho in the future.
A potential move to Sunderland would also presumably benefit the France U21 international, with Zouma in that instance obviously able to begin to adapt to life in the fast and often furious world of the Premier League.
Lack of cover?
While Zouma is obviously in need of regular first-team football at this stage of his development to ensure that his impressive progress is not stunted, the imminent departure of the controversial David Luiz - the Brazilian defender who is set to join Paris Saint-Germain following the end of this summer's World Cup - may leave Mourinho slightly short of necessary cover if one of Cahill or Terry were to suffer an injury.
However, the versatility possessed by the experienced and hugely reliable Branislav Ivanovic should help in that regard and it seems unlikely that Chelsea would not attempt to engineer some sort of recall clause.