Very rarely are football terms named after the footballers themselves, one example is, of course, the famous Cruyff turn,but the most famous of our generation is “The Makelele Role”. The Cruyff turn epitomizes the skill and the footballing brain of its inventor, but total football’s most famous man has an unlikely successor. Claude Makelele’s role(The Makelele Role) at Chelsea under Jose Mourinho when they won the Premier League title was named after its inventor.
“We will not miss Makelele. 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.”
“Why put another layer of gold paint on the Bentley when you are losing the entire engine?”
‘Look, if I have a triangle in midfield – Claude Makelele behind and two others just in front – I will always have an advantage against a pure 4-4-2 where the central midfielders are side by side. That’s because I will always have an extra man. It starts with Makelele, who is between the lines. If nobody comes to him he can see the whole pitch and has time. If he gets closed down it means one of the two other central midfielders is open. If they are closed down and the other team’s wingers come inside to help, it means there is space now for us on the flank, either for our own wingers or for our full-backs. There is nothing a pure 4-4-2 can do to stop things’.
“It’s the ultimate honour to have it (The Makelele Role) named after me, I suppose it shows that I have achieved everything I have worked for,” he says. “I really learnt how to play that role at Real Madrid where, if we were losing 1-0, we would say ‘Right, lock up shop’. The four at the back and the one in front of them – me – would concentrate only on defence and let the others go and do what they had to up front. They would take the risks, I would take care of the opposition’s attacks.
“In every team you need to know what your role is and one of the keys to my role is to keep the balance of the team right. So when Didier [Drogba] goes here, I do this. When Frank [Lampard] goes there, I go there. Same with Michael [Ballack]. When one person moves out of position, then someone else comes in and covers for them.
“When you play in my position you have to enjoy it. You can’t be thinking I don’t get any goals’. You just enjoy it, you enjoy playing football, tackling, giving the ball. Just enjoy it. When you are small you have to tackle at the right moment. He might be tall, he might be strong but if you tackle at the right moment you’ll win it. It’s about timing.”