French defensive midfielder Claude Makelele has been released on a free transfer by Chelsea, allowing him to sign for a club in his home country, Paris St Germain.
The thirty-five year old international spent five years at Stamford Bridge winning two Premier League winners medals, two league cup winners medals and an FA Cup winners medal to add to his already vast collection.
He was already the proud owner of winners medals for the French Ligue 1, Spanish La Liga , Spanish Super Cup, UEFA Champions League and European Super Cup before he moved to London when Real Madrid surprisingly allowed him to go.
A statement from Chelsea said, “Everyone at Chelsea would like to thank Claude for the service he has given us. Claude has been a key part of our trophy success and we wish him well for the future. He will always be welcomed back to Stamford Bridge in the future either as a player or friend of the club.”
That statement doesnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t do justice to a man who for at least three of the five years at the club was, in my mind, the best in the world at the role he played. He arrived at Stamford Bridge in 2003 after costing Chelsea some Ã‚Â£16.8million, with a very good reputation. What he did was to live up to his reputation and surpass it with every time he pulled on the shirt.
He played two hundred and seventeen times for Chelsea, the last of which being the heartbreaking penalty shoot-out defeat in the Champions League final against Manchester United. He only ever scored two goals for the blues but that was not surprising as he got a nose bleed every time he went within forty yards of the opponents goal!
He had a specific role to do for the team and he did it better than anyone else has before and probably better than anyone will in the future. Up until last season if anyone was asked to pick a world XI and the team contained a player in the holding role, ninety nine times out of a hundred, the players name on the team sheet would have been Makelele.
The contribution that he made to the team would not always be immediately obvious. He didnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t possess the silky skills of a Joe Cole. He didnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t have the blistering pace of a Shaun Wright-Phillips. He didnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t have the box to box engine of a Frank Lampard the obvious leadership qualities of a John Terry or the eye-catching goalscoring ability of a Didier Drogba. What he did do however was play the role he was required to play to perfection.
His ability to stop his opponents usually by reading the game well and making interceptions, or by making well timed and efficient tackles, or simply by applying considerable pressure on the men on the ball, was a tool that very few teams are fortunate enough to have.
Once he gained possession Makelele rarely hit a fifty yard diagonal pass that brought the crowd to its feet. He rarely took the ball past several opponents with a drop of the shoulder and piece of exquisite skill. What he did do was to pass the ball quickly and accurately to one of his team-mates and start attack after attack. He stopped opponents from attacking and started his own side attacking. He stopped the opposition from having the ball and made sure that his side kept it.
Football really is a simple game. At least it is if you have Claude Makelele at his best in your side!
Former team-mate Steve McManaman described Makelele as “the most important player at Real Madrid” and his then captain, Fernando Hierro said, “I think Claude has this kind of gift – he’s been the best player in the team for years but people just don’t notice him, don’t notice what he does. But you ask anyone at Real Madrid during the years we were talking about and they will tell you he was the best player at Real. We all knew, the players all knew he was the most important. The loss of Makelele was the beginning of the end for Los Galacticos. You can see that it was also the beginning of a new dawn for Chelsea.Ã¢â‚¬Â
Makelele won seventy-one international caps with France but wasnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t fortunate enough to play in either of their big tournament victories in 1998 and 2000. His international career ended sadly after this summerÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s European Championships where he looked a shadow of his former self playing for a side that were a shadow of their former selves.
Maybe the biggest tribute that can be paid to Claude Makelele is that the holding midfield role is now known around the world as the Ã¢â‚¬ËœMakelele roleÃ¢â‚¬â„¢.
He will be missed in the Premier League. He is not often mentioned in the lists of best overseas players but for me, he would be one of the first names on the teamsheet.
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