‘I hope it’s positive!’: Chelsea’s midfield ‘octopus’ Denis Zakaria explains how his team-mates gave him bizarre nickname… as the Swiss deadline day signing is itching to ‘prove I can play in this team’
Denis Zakaria is still yet to make his debut for Chelsea, but insists he is eager to prove that he has what it takes to cut it at the highest level for the Blues.
The Switzerland international midfielder’s move to Stamford Bridge only came off in the final minutes of the transfer window – with the deal not completed fully until an hour after the deadline.
Zakaria joined Chelsea from Juventus on an initial loan deal, with an optional future fee of £30million, should he impress Graham Potter enough to make his move permanent.
Zakaria began his career in his home country, before a move to Borussia Monchengladbach saw him excel in one of Europe’s top leagues for five seasons before a move to Juventus materialised in January 2022.
And though the rangy midfielder’s stay at the Old Lady lasted only half a season, he still made 13 appearances for the Italian giants, scoring and assisting once.
But it is as a midfield enforcer that he has made his name, and being blessed with long limbs, the Swiss defensive midfielder has been given a strange nickname due to his uncanny ability to win back the ball.
‘It’s because I have very long legs!’ he told the Evening Standard. ‘I win a lot of balls in midfield, so that is why they said octopus. It was funny and it was positive, I hope!’
Having joined the Blues on an initial loan, though, he will be desperate to avoid the same fate as last season’s flop signing Saul Niguez, who completed 90 minutes only seven times from 23 attempts.
‘I believe in myself 100 per cent,’ he added. ‘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.
‘That is the most important thing. I want to win trophies and help the team win — and if I have the chance to play, I will give 100 per cent to help. That is the biggest point and after we will see what happens at the end.
‘It was crazy because I finished training with Juventus and my agent called me and he said, ‘We have Chelsea [making an offer], is that interesting for you?’ I was like, ‘Oh, yes’. It’s Chelsea, you can’t say no.
‘It was really close [to collapsing]. I stayed in the office in Turin until, I don’t know, maybe one hour after midnight, so yes it was really close. But in the end, everything was perfect.’
And although he was the last signing of the Thomas Tuchel era – indeed he only got two training sessions under the German before his dismissal in the aftermath of a 1-0 loss to Dinamo Zagreb in his 100th game at the helm.
However, new boss Graham Potter was quick to have a word with his midfielder, as he still looks to settle on his ideal formation at Chelsea since taking over the reins.
‘I spoke with the new coach, but it was the first meeting to see where my position was and to get to know each other,’ added Zakaria.
‘We spoke a little bit and said he likes the style of player I am. In training, he is pushing every player, which is good.
‘At the moment, I need to train hard and be ready for when I have my chance.’
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