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Slipperduke

The Camden Cad
Joined
Aug 24, 2004
Messages
4,333
Location
North London
When Roman Abramovich first pumped Chelsea full of roubles in 2003, it sparked a frenzied shopping spree that would have put Coleen Rooney to shame. Hundreds of millions of pounds were splashed out on an array of talent, but I very much doubt if any of it was put to better use than the £16.8m that was ear-marked for the capture of Claude Makelele from Real Madrid. The French midfielder, who left Stamford Bridge yesterday for Paris St Germain, will be sorely missed after five years of exceptional service.

It was astonishing that he was ever allowed to leave the Bernabeu in the first place. Only a fool could have questioned his contribution to the team but, unfortunately for Real, that's exactly the kind of person who had been allowed to take control of the club. Florentino Perez's 'galatico' policy meant that Makelele was paid a fraction of the riches bestowed upon his more glamorous team-mates. Despite repeated pleas for parity, backed up by the support of his colleagues, the man responsible for making the team tick was shown the door.

"We will not miss Makelele," burbled Perez upon his departure. "His technique is average, he lacks the speed and skill to take the ball past opponents, and 90% of his distribution either goes backwards or sideways."

This though, as anyone with even the slightest understanding of football knew, was precisely why he should have been adequately rewarded. Makelele was so good that his name became the description of a whole new position. Within a year of his arrival in England, anyone who was anyone was scouring the earth for a 'Makelele-type' player. Someone to scrap around in front of the defenders, breaking up attacks, seizing possession and then selflessly releasing the ball to a more creative team-mate.

Makelele's refusal to ever try and hog the limelight made him a popular figure in the dressing room, but despite his low profile his importance to Chelsea could never be understated. Opposing managers even tried to man-mark him on occasion, an unprecedented 'honour' for a defensive midfielder, but he was always tenacious enough to find a way around their attentions.

"He's an absolute dream to play with, especially if you're an attacking midfield player," said Frank Lampard before the Champions League final. "He's one of the greatest midfield players in the world, he has been for a long time, and all of us players know exactly why."

Of all the Makelele memories most cherished by his fans, his first goal at Stamford Bridge must be one of the most heart-warming. With the 2004-05 title already secured, Chelsea had to play Charlton at home before they were allowed to lift the trophy. It was a tight, scrappy end of season affair, neither team pushing forward with any enthusiasm. Then, in injury time, Jonathan Fortune sent Lampard tumbling in the box and a penalty was awarded. As one, the Chelsea players dragged Makelele forward and pushed the ball into his hands. This was his 94th game for Chelsea and he had never scored. This was his moment. Stamford Bridge went silent, Makelele stepped up and, rather inevitably, hit a weak shot straight at the goalkeeper. Typically though, he never stopped moving. He pounced on the rebound, slotted it home and then vanished underneath a pile of jubilant blue shirts

After years of being taken for granted in Madrid, London simply took him to her heart. Now that he's gone, and for once it's Chelsea who find themselves looking for a 'Makelele-type' midfielder, fans of all clubs will surely hope that he enjoys success in Paris.
 
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