Denis Zakaria has come to London on his own and with a point to prove at Chelsea.
The Switzerland midfielder has revealed he left his family behind when trading Juventus and Turin for the Blues and west London.
Zakaria’s easy smile and relaxed manner do not mask his chief desire – to turn his season-long loan stint into a permanent Stamford Bridge move.
— Chelsea FC (@ChelseaFC) September 2, 2022
The 25-year-old abandoned any comfort zone with his deadline-day loan move to Chelsea, but insisted he would not have it any other way.
Zakaria has visited London before and enjoys the city – but this time the 42-cap midfielder is here to work.
The former Borussia Monchengladbach star must compete with N’Golo Kante, Jorginho, Mateo Kovacic, Ruben Loftus-Cheek and more for game time, and is yet to make his Blues debut.
But Zakaria has no doubts on his abilities, and revealed he already feels settled at Chelsea.
“I am alone for the moment but I was already here in London before,” said Zakaria, in a revealing discussion at Chelsea’s Cobham training ground.
“It is an amazing, amazing city. Now, it is not like before because I am not visiting and I have to work.
“It was not an easy option to come here, but in the end I need this challenge to be better. I am better when I take challenges.
“I like challenges. That’s why I am here. I want to prove I can do it and I will give my best that’s for sure. To change everything like language is not easy but I think I can do it.
“I believe in my self 100 per cent. I am waiting for my moment and I want to prove I can play in this team. I want to help this team to win and win trophies.
“I am doing my best for that. I am sure that I have the ability to play here.
“If you don’t do well, you won’t have the chance to stay. Chelsea is a big club and if you’re not good enough, you can’t stay.
“I am here to prove that I deserve to be here, that I am a good player and I can help the team.
“I didn’t know any of the players when I came, only Kai (Havertz) a little from playing against each other in Germany.
“But there’s a very, very positive atmosphere. I’m a new player but I feel like I’ve been here one or two years already.”
Chelsea’s deadline-day search for a midfielder saw Zakaria’s deal proposed and completed in next to no time.
“It was very, very late. Everything happened in six hours so it was very fast,” said Zakaria.
“It was crazy because I finished training with Juventus and my agent called me.
“He said ‘we have Chelsea, is that interesting for you?’ I was like ‘oh, yes’. It’s Chelsea, you can’t say no.
“After that I got home and had to wait while the clubs agreed the deal and everything.
“Then it was really close. I stayed in the bureau in the office in Turin until maybe one hour after midnight. But in the end everything was perfect.”
Thomas Tuchel had a big hand in Zakaria’s Chelsea arrival, only to be swiftly replaced at the helm by Graham Potter.
Zakaria remains convinced he can win over the Blues’ new boss, but was left surprised by one of former coach Tuchel’s plans for him.
Tuchel had suggested Zakaria could feature at wing-back given his athletic abilities, though that proved news to Chelsea’s midfield recruit.
When told of Tuchel’s wing-back idea, Zakaria replied: “Oh, no, no! I didn’t know! OK, I can run fast but I didn’t know I can play in that position.
“In the past, I played also as a central defender in a three, in the middle, that was a position I have played. But in the end I was always a six or an eight.
“I am a really flexible player though, and I can adapt myself.
“That’s also a good part of me. In the end, I am a midfield player first! I can play in a lot of positions but I am a midfield player.
“I’ve spoken with the new coach to get to know each other, but in the end I have to work 100 per cent on the pitch and in training. In training he is pushing every player which is good.
“We have a lot of games and I think every player will have their chance. It’s in that moment the player has to take their chance and play well.”