In our modern game, it seems every football manager under the sun seems to want a player in the Claude Makélélé mould. But, in this day and age, is it really necessary?
I think the prolific ex-Chelsea midfielder managed to certainly make that defensive midfield position his own, much like you regard a vacuum flask as a Thermos flask, when it is in fact a brand and not the name of the product. It does seem pundits and journalists alike do enjoy flaunting the “he’s playing in the Makélélé role” about a fair bit when a midfielder is deployed just in front of the back four and behind more advanced players upfield. Anyone who watched Chelsea in the 2004-2005 season where the club won the Premier League title knows that Claude was pivotal in the success that Jose Mourinho’s side obtained, and his clear defensive capabilities allowed the more attacking players to help the Blues storm the league, which they did.
But is a player who is so one-dimensional worthy of being a professional footballer these days? You look at the top-class midfielders in world football at the moment such as Javi Martinez of Bayern Munich or Sergio Busquets of Barcelona and, whilst it is clear they play in the same position as Makélélé, they are regarded as much more complete footballers. Busquets is one of the best passers of the ball I have seen and Martinez has the stature and ability to play centre-back as well. With the demands of the modern game, I don’t think a player could be used simply for defensive capabilities unless he was a defender and, to be honest, I don’t think Claude was a narrow-minded as people suggest. I just read quotes from Chris Coleman when he was manager of Fulham and he said that Makélélé was the heart of the team and that all their attacks stemmed through him. When Coleman’s Fulham defeated Chelsea, he deployed two wingers to press the Chelsea midfielder every time he received the ball and Fulham won one-nil. The same player who was regarded as dispensable by Florentino Perez of Madrid. Looks like Coleman won that one.