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I always got the impression
that we remained courteously persistent in our interest in Zouma, understanding that Chelsea's transfer situation made things difficult for them. At the same time we expressed an interest in Tomori on loan, something Chelsea were seemingly open to until the late bid for an aging unreliable Luiz from Arsenal meant that Tomori would also be staying. I expect we thought we'd get one of Zouma/Tomori and when we didn't it was too late to switch to another worthwhile target and we didn't want to panic buy so we went with what we had.
Not defending or criticising the approach here, but just saying this is what I think happened.
...if we had been told by Chelsea that Lampard wants to have a look at him before making a permanent decision and we could have first dibs on him in January if it wasn't working out there - would that have been enough for them to think "we'll go with what he have for now and hope we get Zouma in January"?
Just a hypothetical, and I know we were linked with a few other centre-halves, just wondering if they maybe didn't want to splash the cash elsewhere if Zouma might be available soonish?