Chelsea ready to play hardball with Everton for defender Kurt Zouma

Chelsea are reportedly prepared to delay the transfer decision for defender Kurt Zouma despite the concrete interest from Everton. The France international spent the previous campaign on loan with the Toffees and the move proved a huge success as he formed a brilliant partnership with Michael Keane at the heart of the defence.

As such, the Merseyside outfit are understood to hold a keen interest on signing him on a permanent basis, but their chances of doing so remain slim at the moment. According to The Mirror, the Blues are currently not thinking about the potential sale of Zouma, considering they are currently without a head coach.

The same publication claims that the new manager may decide the fate of the Frenchman, though the ongoing transfer ban may still prohibit them from considering the sale of the centre-back. Chelsea will witness the departure of Gary Cahill on a free transfer at the end of the month and that would potentially leave them with David Luiz, Andreas Christensen and Antonio Rudiger as the senior options to occupy the central defence.

Still, there are no assurances that Rudiger would be present for the beginning of the season after a knee injury and that may increase the need for Zouma to stay put with the club. The Blues are currently not permitted to register any new players for the next 12 months but they have the option of pursuing permanent deals for players loaned during the previous campaign.

Mateo Kovacic and Gonzalo Higuain fall into that category and reports claim that the west London giants are keen on wrapping up a permanent move for the former. The Croatian made over 50 appearances for the Blues last term and the club are keen on wrapping a permanent deal, particularly with Ruben Loftus-Cheek potentially out for the year with a serious Achilles problem.