Chelsea defender Kurt Zouma has thanked former manager Jose Mourinho for giving him the tools to succeed in English football.
Mourinho raided Saint-Etienne to sign the then-teenage centre-back during his second stint in charge at Stamford Bridge.
The pair spent 18 months together before Mourinho moved on in December 2015 and his departure led to a downturn in playing time for Zouma, who was sent to Stoke City and Everton for season-long loan spells.
The five-cap France international returned to Chelsea this term and credits Mourinho with laying the foundation for his development into a first-team regular.
“Mourinho opened the door to England for me. I was only 19 when I arrived. I was young,” Zouma told France Football.
“He gave me confidence by playing me in big games with a lot of intensity. He was the one who showed me what football in England was like.
“The coach is a man who hates losing. He taught me to hate defeat.
“Thanks to him, I was able to flourish at Chelsea. He gave me a lot of things and taught me a lot. I thank him.”
Mourinho is now head coach at Tottenham, while Zouma is a regular in the Premier League under new Blues boss Frank Lampard.
Chelsea have adapted quickly to their former midfielder’s methods, winning eight of 13 league games to sit comfortably inside the top four.
Zouma said: “He is a coach who is really close to us. It shows that he was still a player until recently. He talks to us a lot, participates a lot in training.
“When we work defensively on corners, he’s the one who shoots.
“You should see the precision he has… it’s amazing. He has so many qualities with his feet. He is still very strong.”