Didier Deschamps has defended his decision to select Kurt Zouma over the likes of Dayot Upamecano and Aymeric Laporte in his latest France squad and says the Chelsea star has proven he’s the ‘better’ option since putting his injury problems behind him.
Zouma has nailed down his place at the heart of Chelsea’s defence alongside Thiago Silva this season and he was rewarded with a call-up for France’s triple header against Finland, Portugal and Sweden.
The 26-year-old was an unused substitute in France’s Nations League clash with Croatia last month after Leipzig centre-back Upamecano withdrew from the squad due to an illness.
The reigning world champions are blessed with an embarrassment of riches across every position and Upamecano and Laporte were among those left disappointed as Deschamps announced his latest 26-man party earlier this month.
The Manchester City defender is yet to even make his debut for the national side.
‘There’s competition everywhere,’ the France head coach explained at his pre-match press conference on Tuesday.
‘Kurt has been with us for a while, he’s been called up many times but hasn’t played that much.
‘If I pick him it’s because I think he’s better than the other people because of what he’s doing at Chelsea.
‘He had a few injuries in a row but now he’s been very fit for a while, he’s very calm, so he’s here.’
Deschamps added: ‘If you’re asking why I picked those four central defenders, I have to choose.
‘We have three games in nine days so obviously everybody will play, including Kurt.’
Deschamps insisted the ‘door is not closed’ on Upamecano ahead of next summer’s delayed European Championships.
‘He was with us before. He’s going through a more difficult moment,’ he continued.
‘He knows he can do better. He was quite emotional during his first call-up in September, and in October as well.
‘He’s a young player and he has the potential. He’s playing many games.
‘Of course, if it’s not him, it’s another, it’s about the competition. Kurt Zouma in that case, who’s doing very well, he’s a starter at Chelsea and he knows the French team as well.
‘The door is not closed. I make that choice today because it’s logical to me.
‘Will it be the same in March and June? It’s the same thing for all of the players who were not called but can hope to be in the national team.’