Lucas Digne says fellow Frenchman Kurt Zouma is recapturing the form which made him a key figure at Chelsea under decorated managers Guus Hiddink and Jose Mourinho.
Everton defensive duo Digne and Zouma first played together nearly a decade ago and shared World Cup success with France’s Under-20 team in 2013.
Digne, then, revelled in a “special moment” after his gorgeous delivery against Bournemouth on Sunday enabled Zouma to thunder in his first Everton goal.
Centre-half Zouma, who was sidelined for one year after damaging knee ligaments playing for Chelsea in February 2016, insisted recently his football is improving thanks to the guidance of Everton boss Marco Silva.
Former Barcelona and Paris Saint-Germain player Digne agrees with his colleague’s assessment and points to Zouma’s recall to the French national team late last year as evidence to support his case.
“He is getting better all the time, for sure,” Digne told evertontv.
“He was unlucky to suffer a big injury and worked really hard to return to his best level. He is doing that at Everton and [as a result] got back in the national team.
“For him, it is a great season. It [Zouma’s strike to break the deadlock against Bournemouth] was a special moment because it was his first goal.
“I was so happy to give him the assist. We have played together since we were 16 and I have known him a long time.
“He is a very good guy and he deserved his goal. He creates a lot of chances at set pieces and has a really good jump.
"He is a very good defender, I really like him as a player and he deserves to do well.”
Zouma joined Everton on a season-long loan from Chelsea last summer and has played every minute of the past six Premier League games.
The 24-year-old, who swapped boyhood club Saint Etienne in France for Chelsea in 2014, has started 15 top-flight matches in all for Silva’s side, lining up with Digne in every one of them. Zouma's third international appearance back in October came three years to the day after the defender won his second France cap.
Left-back Digne, another summer 2018 signing at Goodison Park, has had little trouble adapting to the physicality and intensity of Premier League football.
Resilient in defence, he is also proving something of a revelation going forward. Digne has created 38 chances this term, outstripping the comparative effort of any other defender in Europe’s top five leagues. No player in the English top flight has provided more crosses than Digne’s 175.
The 25-year-old opened his own Everton scoring account with a stoppage-time free-kick to rescue a point against Watford last month.
He added two more strikes to his personal tally in the 5-1 Boxing Day victory at Burnley, while he has three assists for the campaign following his silver service provision for Zouma.
And Digne confessed he drew more pleasure from helping Zouma get off the mark than he did breaking his own duck, simply because his teammate’s headed finish paved the way for Everton to claim three points.
“I am happy when I can help the team – the most important thing is always the team,” added Digne, whose side go to Southampton on Saturday targeting a victory which could conceivably see them climb three places to seventh.
"If I can score and we win, it is perfect.
“When I scored my first goal at Goodison [in the 2-2 draw with Watford], my feelings were mixed. I was so happy to score my first goal for Everton and for it to be at Goodison. But we drew that match and the victory [over Bournemouth] means more – I prefer to win.
“The feeling I had after Sunday was perfect. The fans were behind us and we won. It was very important to win again and now we have confidence for the match at Southampton on Saturday.”