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Makalele, Claude (2003-2008)

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Claude Makelele (2003-2008)

Written by The Moos in July 2007

Not many players can say that they have a role or position on the pitch named after them. You never hear of "the Pelé role" or "the Zidane role". One player who can put that on his resumé however is Claude Makelele. For many years he has been probably the best in the world at what he does. He's the cleaning lady on the midfield who might not be seen all the time but is a vital part of his team. Just ask Real Madrid who, before winning the league in 2007, hadn't won anything since Makelele left the team.

maka%20at%20nantes.gif Claude Makelele started his career at Nantes in France. He joined them at the age of 18 in December 1991.He made his debut in the 1992/93 season and stayed with the team for five seasons. He was, rather surprisingly if you ask me, a fairly regular goal scorer for Nantes hitting the target nine times in 169 games. Okay, that might not be all that much but for someone like Makelele it's not too bad. He even scored six goals in one season, a feat I doubt we'll ever see again.

That happened in 1996/97 and that together with great performance earned him a move to Olympique de Marseille. So after winning the French Championship with Nantes and helping them to a semi final of the European Cup it was time to move on.

He stayed just one season with Marseille and even though he played well and also scored two goals they decided to sell him to the spanish team Celta Vigo in the year 2000. Considering Marseille got Makelele for free and they sold him for £1,500,000 they must have thought it was a good deal. Looking back however I think they wouldn't have mind keeping him.

maka%20real.gif Celta Vigo got to keep him for two seasons and his performances persuaded Real Madrid to offer £7,000,000 for him. The transfer wasn't without its complications. Celta Vigo, no doubt realizing what a great player they had, didn't want to sell Maka unless they got much more money for him (and I'm not blaming them). But Makelele wanted to play for Real Madrid who at the time was perhaps one of the biggest teams in the world.

So he refused to train until the matter was settled. In the end Celta Vigo gave in and sold him for much less than he was worth. So in 2003 Makelele signed for Real Madrid and here he finally got to win some more titles.

maka%20and%20zidane.gif In the years to come he was crowned Spanish champion twice and also won the Champions League, Spanish Super Cup, European Super Cup and the Intercontinental Cup (nowadays known as the FIFA World Club Championship). He also established himself as one of the very best holding midfielders in the world. But even though he was such a great player he wasn't as highly valued by everyone. He was one of the most under-paid players at Real but he didn't complain much about it.

In 2003 however he finally asked, encouraged by some team mates, for an improved contract. Real Madrid refused to consider his request and this led to Makelele handing in a transfer request. Claudio Ranieri saw his chance to get a player the team needed and signed him to Chelsea for £16,600,000. This was the start of a few dark years for Real Madrid. The Club president Florentino Pérez said that Makelele wouldn't be missed and criticised his technique, speed, skill and his passes noting that "younger players will arrive who will cause Makelele to be forgotten". Possibly the biggest load of "Spucatum Tauri" - in other words, bull sh*t - ever to escape from someone's mouth. Words of a lunatic, one might even say.

bentley2.gif However, players at Real Madrid knew better than their president. Zidane once commented on Maka's departure and the signing of Beckham: - "Why put another layer of gold paint on the Bentley when you are losing the entire engine?".

lada.gif Other players like Steve McManaman described Makelele as the most important and the least appreciated midfielder at Real Madrid and Fernando Hierro even criticised Florentino Perez, saying "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." and "He was the base, the key and I think he is the same to Chelsea now".

I don't think many disagrees with Hierro. Claude Makelele is a vital part of the team and he has meant a lot to Chelsea in these past few years. A player who seldom has a bad game and who seems to be loved by all within the team. A proof of this is the reaction when Makelele scored his first goal for Chelsea.

maka%20against%20charlton.jpg Maka is mobbed after scuffing his first ever goal for Chelsea

It was in his 2nd season with the team in a game against Charlton on the very same day the Premiership trophy was due to be presented. Chelsea got a penalty and Makelele was allowed to take it. Apparently he had taken a few on the training earlier that day and missed them all. He stepped up and missed yet again. On the rebound be managed to bounce the ball over the keeper somehow and he had finally scored for Chelsea.

It is perhaps one of my favourite goals. Not so much because of the goal but because the reaction from the other players. The happiness they showed was incredible and one could really feel that everyone, whether on the pitch or on the bench, was truly happy for Makelele. Whenever I hear someone call Chelsea a bought team without team spirit I always point out that single moment. Usually shuts them up.

lifting%20fa%20cup.jpg Claude "Maka" Makelele is about to start his fifth season with Chelsea and he has managed to get some new trophies during his time at the club. Two consecutive English Premiership titles, two English League Cup titles, an English Community Shield and the FA Cup too. Perhaps we'll see him winning the Champions League again next season?

Updated by Loz in August 2008

Makaleke, and Chelsea, were not to win the Champions League in 2008 although they did reach the final where they were beaten by Manchester United. Despite Maka's advancing years, and the amount of competition for a berth in the centre of the Chelsea midfield he still managed to accumulate 34 appearances in all competitions including, notably, playing in eight of the nine games we played against the other three of the big four teams. In the summer of 2008 there were rumours that Makelele had signed a one year extension to his contract however these proved to be untrue and in late July he decided to return to France to finish his career with PSG. Chelsea allowed him to leave on a free transfer despite his contract still having a season to run.

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