Thomas Tuchel has admitted the club took a risk when allowing central-defender Kurt Zouma to leave Chelsea in the summer after more than seven years with the Blues.
The Frenchman was offered the chance to swap west for east London in the summer transfer window when West Ham made a move for the defender, with Zouma believing it was the ‘perfect fit’ for the next step of his career.
Speaking ahead of the visit to face Zouma and his Hammers team-mates tomorrow lunchtime, Tuchel admitted that the performances of Trevoh Chalobah in pre-season influenced the club’s decision to allow Kurt to move on.
‘We replaced him with Trevoh because we had the trust in Trevoh,' Tuchel explained. 'Until this moment we couldn't allow him to go, because of course we are selfish, and we have to see if we have a strong squad but you have to see the situation of Kurt also, and his point of view.
‘He is a strong, experienced Premier League player and he suffered from the decision for [Cesar] Azpilicueta in the back three, for Andreas [Christensen] and for Toni [Rudiger] in the back three as direct competitors to his place so he had not enough minutes for his status and quality and for where he wants to be in this time of his career.
‘We had many talks about it during the pre-season and reflected on his and our positions, the more we got to know Trevoh we thought maybe if Kurt arrives with the wish constantly to go, he can.
‘For many weeks there was not an offer that interested him, so it was always clear. For me, I love Kurt and I told him I love him. I said we don’t need to do these talks because I am happy if you stay, even if Trevoh comes in.
‘I said you are a top-quality player and you have to fight for your place and you always have a chance to play but it is hard competition.'
The Lyon-born defender has started all of West Ham’s last 10 Premier League games and scored the winner in a 3-2 win over Liverpool just under a month ago.
‘He was always a top guy in the dressing room and a top guy on the pitch,’ Tuchel beamed. ‘I mean, his second name is Happy! This is really for a reason. He has the biggest smile that you can imagine. When he smiles, you are instantly also happy.
‘He had a huge influence, and he was very well respected. And very late, this offer came from West Ham and very late he decided and gave me that call and we had the talks. This is an offer that may be the perfect fit for me.'
The Bavarian also stated the club now believe the risk to replace Zouma with Cobham graduate Trevoh Chalobah has paid off.
‘We had to make a decision and we respected the wish because he was long time a player here and we took a bit of a risk to fully trust Trevoh which we did not know in this moment if he can reach the consistent level,' the boss added. 'I think we got rewarded and we allowed him.
‘I have nothing but good words for Kurt. I am happy I was his coach, and he is doing fantastic for West Ham which is not a surprise.’