Chelsea Will Never Repay Debt To Makelele

\I’d always hoped that when the day came for Claude Makelele to leave Chelsea, he’d announce it just before the end of a season so he’d get the sort of send off he deserves and with a year left on his contract, I was starting to believe that would happen at the end of the coming season. However, with the rumours of a possible move to Paris Saint-Germain gathering a little more pace, I might not get my wish. Because, despite discussions in March about a coaching role at Stamford Bridge, it looks as if the Chelsea midfielder isn’t ready to hang up his domestic boots just yet.

 At the start of last season, our manager at the time (Mourinho) told Makelele he wouldn’t be playing him as much and true to his word, picked him only twice before leaving the club in September. However, Makelele went on to play in 18 Premier League games and his experience was again relied upon in the Champions League final. The general consensus seemed to be that Maka didn’t have the legs to play week-in-week-out, although to be fair to him, he didn’t exactly look exhausted playing three games in eight days before announcing his international retirement at the end of France’s Euro 2008 campaign recently.

I’ve always felt he’s been a bit of an unsung hero and it just defies belief that any player who’s achievements in football include winning the Champions League, La Liga (twice), the Premier League (also twice), Ligue 1, the FA Cup, the European Super Cup and the Spanish Super Cup, never mind a player who seemed to make the break so late in life, doesn’t get the credit he deserves.

I mean, how many players are so good at what they do they have a position named after them? Makelele redefined the position of the deep-lying midfielder so much so that the term “the Makelele role” is now bandied about as freely as the term “midfielder” or “defender”. Makelele truly became one of the most influential footballers of his generation and what he’s given to Chelsea (and football in general come to that) is something worth a lot more than Roman’s millions.

Having played for Celta Vigo, Makelele really started making the headlines following his move to Real Madrid at the age of 27. Unfortunately for him though, these initial headlines weren’t the sort he’d been after, with the Spanish media suggesting he wasn’t good enough to replace the much loved Fernando Redondo. However, he stuck it out and truly made the role his own. So much so, that when he left Real in 2003, Zinedine Zidane declared they had lost the most valuable component in their team, and they’ve certainly never come close to replacing him.

Of his move to Chelsea, Maka said “Chelsea really wanted me, they fought for me and I have a lot of respect for Chelsea” and that has always been apparent. Unlike far too many players these days, throughout his time at Chelsea, Maka has pointedly used just about every excuse in the book to decline interviews with the press. He does his talking on the pitch, although it’s often been so taken for granted it’s as understated as the quietly spoken midfielder is off the pitch.

And despite Mourinho’s decision to cast him aside at the start of last season, there is very little doubt Makelele was a fundamental part of what made Jose’s ‘winning’ side what it was. Other teams have definitely seen the impact a player can make in the ‘Makelele role’ and those clever enough have adopted it for themselves. Take Manchester United, is it a coincidence that when Keane stopped firing on all cylinders, so did their fortunes? So they bring Owen Hargreaves into the role and find themselves dominant again – at our expense (coincidently while our very own Makelele played in less than half our games). Even Liverpool have Mascherano and look what happened when he got sent off against United and Arsenal, who suffered when Flamini was out injured could find themselves in some real trouble next season.

In fact no top team in football seems to operate without their own Makelele these days – the engine that just about everything seems to go through and yet this very often goes unnoticed until they’re not there and things aren’t running as smoothly all of a sudden. The classic example of this, of course, has to be the Real Madrid Makelele himself departed. Whilst they were struggling to find the same sort of space that had previously allowed them to bang goals in from anywhere, Stamford Bridge, with Makelele firmly in place, suddenly became a fortress, with Drogba enjoying the best form of his career.

And whilst, in the event of his departure, we still have Essien and Obi-Mikel who’ve had the benefit of learning from the maestro himself, for me, there really will only ever be one Makelele.

10 Responses to “Chelsea Will Never Repay Debt To Makelele”

  1. Excellent article very well written. Makelele is an unsung hero, and really should have been afforded a fitting send off.

    Even during Euro 2008, playing one of the worst France sides I’ve seen for a long time, Makelele still looked a class operator. Real will miss him, and I’m sure Chelsea will too.

    A true professional, and a gentleman too.

    Glasgow Rangers / Chelsea – Brothers in Blue.

  2. I really don’t rate him, can’t tackle, can’t pass, can’t shoot. This guy has made a career out of cynical, niggly fouls and is lauded for it. He’s not very dynamic at all, which is something I feel is a must have for any defensive midfielder.

  3. @Simon??
    You say Maka don’t play well in the Makelele position?? Funny. Must be a scouser

  4. LOL @ Simon. Clueless git. How can people name a position after a player that isnt a good defensive midfielder. Scouser indeed. Made my day

    Makelele is the greatest defensive midfielder of all time, legend

  5. Nicely written piece.

    Its those people who dont have the privelage of watching him week in week out that dont appreciate what he brings to a team. Several times while watching a game, out of interest I watched him closely to see what he does that makes him so good.

    I found that what he lacks in pace he makes up for with his reading of the game. He’s almost every time in a position to step in and make the tackle and break up attacks. Play a simple ball and we’re on the offensive.

    I’m sure if there were stats available to back this up we’d see that quite alot of Chelsea attacks were started by Makelel himself. The guy is a joy to watch and a perfect example that sometimes the simple ball is the best ball to play.

  6. He is a class act and it doesn’t matter if he gets a send off or not, he will always be a Chelsea legend.

  7. nice article.
    Lele is the best of all. with lele, chelsea’s defence is well cordinated.he always make sure that he provide cover for the back four.lele and carvalho are the back rock behind chelsea unbeaten run at home till date.i wish him good luck…chelsea 4life!

  8. Simon, shut up. You don’t know shit about football or Makelele

  9. Simon, a DEFENSIVE midfielder should be dynamic? An ATTACKING mdifielder should be dynamic you git. A defensive midfielder needs to stop attacks, cut out passes and keep the cogs moving and thats exactly what he does. Which is why he has a position named after him and you are just a nob.

  10. ‘The Makelele Role’ eh? That phrase makes me cringe tbh. It just shows how far behind English football has been for years and years, bar the top few. Defensive midfielders have been around on the continent for years, there’s been a few here too granted. In terms of the beautiful game, Makelele is a fraud of a footballer. Can barely pass, cant head, cant shoot, cant beat a man

    For someone with so many limitations to his game its a sad indictment he’s heralded as some kind of phenomenon, He’s a rich mans David Batty

    If Chelsea want to progress, imo, they need to put this spoiler out to pasture and find a footballer who can provide similar defensive cover. Senna showed us how it can be done, Essien should be the one for Chelsea, Obi Mikel is a loose cannon and I think he’s simply not good enough