Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho believes he deserves credit for helping to create two of the world’s best young defenders: Kurt Zouma and Real Madrid’s Raphael Varane.
Speaking in his pre-match press conference on Friday afternoon, Mourinho said he believes the French Football Federation (FFF) should personally write him a letter to lend their gratitude for helping to develop the two young centre-backs.
"I think the French federation should write a letter to thank me for two best [young] defenders in the world,” Mourinho told reporters, according to ESPN journalist Miguel Delaney.
Mourinho signed Zouma from Saint Etienne in January 2014 for a fee worth £12 million. The 20-year-old has made 14 appearances so far this season, scoring two goals, and is already putting considerable pressure on the experienced Gary Cahill for a first-team place at Stamford Bridge.
Zouma has represented France at Under-21 level and could be in line to make his first appearance for the senior team for next month’s international matches against Brazil and Denmark.
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Mourinho was also the man who brought Varane to Real Madrid during his spell as manager at the Bernabeu.
The Portuguese coach secured the Frenchman’s services on a six-year deal after reaching a €10 million agreement with Lens in June 2011.
Varane, now 21, is arguably the best young central defender in world football. The Real Madrid starlet has already made 97 appearances for Los Blancos, plus another 17 for Les Blues.
It’s been reported in recent weeks that both Chelsea and Manchester United are keen to take Varane to the Premier League; however, the reigning European champions are extremely unlikely to sell the youngster, regardless of the offer, are extending his contract to 2020 back in September.
Does Mourinho deserve credit?
Zouma and Varane look set to become France’s first-choice centre-back duo for the next 10 years - but should the FFF really need to thank Mourinho personally for his involvement in their development?
It’s quite possible - and indeed probable - that both Varane and Zouma would have developed into top-class central defenders regardless of Mourinho’s intervention.
But it’s true that the two players might not be at Real Madrid and Chelsea if it wasn’t for Mourinho.