Football is littered with players who are known for their ability in a certain position, Roberto Carlos is known as a marauding left back, Dennis Bergkamp is the archetypal 2nd striker and then there is the man who is the subject of today’s profile; Claude Makelele. As a holding midfielder Makelele was so successful that the position is often referred to as “The Makelele role” and that is the sort of ability that deserves some recognition.
Name: Claude Makelele Sinda
Date of Birth: 18th February 1973
International Caps/Goals: 71/0
Like so many French internationals Makelele was the son of African immigrants, he was born in Zaire (now the Democratic Republic of Congo) and along with his family moved to a suburb of Paris aged 4. When he was 16 Makelele joined Stade Brestois’s youth academy before breaking into the team a year later. He played just 12 games for the club though as he was snapped up by Nantes. His career in Brittany saw a large amount of success which included winning the Ligue 1 title in 1995 and a Champions League semi-final appearance in the following season. After that success he was signed by Marseille, spending a year there before a move to Spain that saw his career really take off.
Makelele joined Celta Vigo in 1998 and formed a successful midfield partnership with Aleksandr Mostovoi (a player I had completely forgotten about before I started writing this) as the Russian’s attacking tendencies were allowed to flourish with Makelele developing into one of the world’s most prominent holding midfielders. It wasn’t long before The Galacticos of Real Madrid came knocking. In 2000 the Frenchman moved to the Santiago Bernbeau for a fee of 14 million euros. Makelele played in a very unfussy style he’d win the ball from the opposition and then play the short pass to the nearest available teammate, he was perfect for Madrid. His willingness to do the grunt work allowed the likes of Zinedine Zidane, Luis Figo, Ronaldo and Raul to concentrate on playing the attacking game that brought so much success. During his time at Madrid Makelele won 2 La Liga titles and a Champions league and was a key member of the side. Under Vicente Del Bosque it was almost unheard of for Real Madrid to start a game without Makelele in their starting 11 but when Del Bosque was surprisingly fired in 2003 Makalele was sold to Chelsea for £16.8 million, with the money used to offset the purchase of David Beckham. Real Madrid president Florentino Perez, showing a complete lack of understanding for the game, said of the sale:
“We will not miss Makélelé. His technique is average, he lacks the speed and skill to take the ball past opponents, and ninety percent of his distribution either goes backwards or sideways. He wasn’t a header of the ball and he rarely passed the ball more than three metres.”
In contrast Zinedine Zidane said:
“Why put another layer of gold paint on the Bentley when you are losing the entire engine?”
I’m going to make a guess that Zidane knows slightly more about football than Perez and the only thing I’m saying is Madrid haven’t won the Champions league since the sale of their “engine.”
As he had done at Madrid, Makelele slotted into the midfield and simply allowed the attacking talents of Arjen Robben, Frank Lampard and Didier Drogba to take the plaudits. It is because of this that I believe that Makelele is the best signing Chelsea have made in the Abramovich era. He was absolutely perfect for the system that Jose Mourinho employs. He’s the hardworking engine room who does all the ground work that lets everyone else concentrate on attacking. The Mourinho system, centred around Makelele saw Chelsea win 2 league titles as well as an FA cup and 2 league cups, he even managed to score this screamer in a game against Tottenham Hotspur http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7xSAwlveL_s. Following a successful career in England Makelele moved to PSG on a free transfer where he finished his playing career and has since moved into a coaching role at the free spending Parisian club.
Here is what he will most be remembered for though, an incredible defensive rock: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jaB6OsC2qdI