Kurt Zouma acknowledges John Terry will be a hard man for Chelsea to replace
Kurt Zouma believes John Terry is irreplaceable for Chelsea after the captain announced his departure at the end of this season.
The Chelsea skipper on Sunday night revealed he would be leaving Stamford Bridge after the club opted not to renew his contract.
Terry said the incoming manager may be able to reverse the decision, while Chelsea suggested a contract offer could be forthcoming and "the channels of dialogue (remained) open".
Yet in making the club's stance public, Terry effectively issued a come-and-get-me-plea to the cash-rich clubs in Major League Soccer, China and elsewhere and it would now take a remarkable U-turn for him to stay at Stamford Bridge for a 19th season.
Terry, who says he intends to leave the Premier League, is already free to sign a pre-contract agreement with a foreign club and may do so before a permanent successor to Jose Mourinho is appointed.
Guus Hiddink, Chelsea interim boss following December's sacking of Mourinho, will address the matter on Tuesday at a media conference ahead of the Premier League clash with Watford, but his caretaker capacity means he has little influence.
Zouma, who has been paired with Terry in central defence in recent weeks, was shocked at the news and does not know how the former England captain can be replaced.
"This feels like when we lost Didier (Drogba) last summer," Zouma told the Evening Standard.
"(Terry) is a huge personality at Chelsea. When you lose these kind of players, you have to replace them but I don't know how John can be replaced. We have to think about it.
"Now we have to see what John wants to do because I think he can play for another one or two years.
"He is a legend and a very good leader. I have learnt a lot from him. I don't know what to say, I am very surprised."
Terry joined Chelsea at the age of 14 and has made 696 appearances so far for the Blues.
He had been hoping to secure a 12-month extension in line with club policy for those aged over 30, but was informed by the club of their decision before last week's win at Arsenal.
The decision is baffling to some as Branislav Ivanovic was recently given a one-year contract extension despite his poor form this season, while Gary Cahill signed a four-year deal prior to his 30th birthday despite being out of the starting XI at present.
Terry made the decision public following Chelsea's 5-1 FA Cup win at MK Dons on Sunday, but may have hinted at it on Instagram last week.
The 35-year-old published a picture of a captain's armband at Stamford Bridge and another of him sitting alongside his two children - both wearing Chelsea shirts and his number 26 - at the stadium.
With the benefit of hindsight, those social media posts are revealing.
Chelsea Supporters' Trust chairman Tim Rolls, speaking in a personal capacity, believes Chelsea need Terry more than the skipper needs the club.
Rolls told Press Association Sport: "It seems a very strange thing to do from the club's point of view, when one of the big issues for Chelsea is lack of leaders on the pitch.
"The only real leader they've got is John Terry and it looks like they don't want him there next season.
"Without him we look a bit rudderless and leaderless. Even if he didn't play every game, someone with his strong character would help pull the dressing room together.
"I do think at the moment the club need him, probably more than he needs them.
"A lot of people are slightly bewildered. On the train back from Milton Keynes yesterday the news broke and this growling started as people realised what had happened.
"A few minutes before they were very happy. People are surprised and disappointed."
Terry can expect a rousing reception in Wednesday's Premier League clash at Watford and Sunday's home contest with Manchester United.
He has won every major club honour since making his debut as a 17-year-old in October 1998, including four Premier League titles, five FA Cups, three League Cups, the Europa League and the Champions League in 2012.
A summer of transition is likely at Chelsea and Terry could have provided continuity, but now he is poised to follow Drogba, Petr Cech, Frank Lampard and Ashley Cole in leaving the club.