Claude Makélélé

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Claude Makélélé
Claude Makelele.jpg
0Full Name Claude Makélélé Sinda
0Date of Birth 18 February 1973
0Place of Birth Kinshasa, Zaire
0Position Defensive midfielder
0Chelsea career 2003-2008
0Debut 13 September 2003
0Games (goals) 217 (2)
0Other clubs Nantes
Celta Vigo
Real Madrid
Paris Saint-Germain

Claude Makélélé Sinda (born 18 February 1973) is a French international who spent five highly successful years at Chelsea, from 2003 to 2008, before moving to Paris Saint-Germain. Prior to Chelsea, Makélélé played for Nantes (1992–1997), Olympique de Marseille (1997–1998), Celta Vigo (1998–2000) and Real Madrid (2000–2003). He is widely considered the premier defensive midfielder of the modern era, a position which is often named after him, being called the "Makélélé Role."[1]


Before Chelsea

Born in Kinshasa, Zaire (now the Democratic Republic of the Congo) Makélélé moved to Savigny-le-Temple, a suburb of Paris in Seine-et-Marne, in 1977, when he was four years old. His father, André-Joseph Makélélé, was also a football player. He represented the Congo DR national team, and ended his career in the Belgian first division.

Makélélé had never left Savigny-le-Temple until the age of 16, when he joined the training centre of Brest-Armorique in Brittany. According to him, it wasn't easy to adapt to the new life in Brest. The training academy life was tough, especially as it was the first time he was far from his family.

Makélélé was recruited by FC Nantes Atlantique in December 1991, when he was still 18 years old. Robert Budzinski, the Sport director from Nantes confessed that once he had discovered Makélélé in Brest, he was sure he would become the new Emmanuel Petit. At the beginning of the 1992–93 season, Claude Makélélé was already in the Nantes A-team, in the French first division. He played at Nantes for five seasons, winning the French Championship in 1995 and helped the club to the semifinal of the European Cup the following season. This earned him a move to Olympique de Marseille for whom he played for one season.

He was transferred to Celta Vigo where he spent two successful seasons at the Galician club. While playing alongside Aleksandr Mostovoi, Valery Karpin, and Michel Salgado, Celta Vigo achieved historic victories such as 4-1 against Liverpool and 4-0 against Juventus in the UEFA Cup.

In 2000, he was recruited by Real Madrid. His transfer was controversial because Celta did not want to sell Makélélé unless a substantial improvement on their offer was made. Makélélé refused to train until there was resolution of his contract. Finally, Celta was reluctantly forced to sell him for €14 million,[2] far less than their valuation of the player.

At Real, Makélélé substantially added to his medal tally, winning two Spanish La Liga championships, the UEFA Champions League, the Spanish Super Cup, the European Super Cup, and the Intercontinental Cup (now replaced by the FIFA World Club Championship). As an ever-present in Vicente del Bosque's Real Madrid side, Makélélé also established himself as one of the best holding midfielders in the world.

However, despite his value to the team, Makélélé was one of its most (relatively) under-paid members, earning a fraction of that paid to teammates like Zinédine Zidane, Luís Figo, Raúl, Ronaldo, Roberto Carlos, Steve McManaman, and Guti. In the summer of 2003, feeling that his position at the club was insecure after the shock sacking of del Bosque and the arrival of David Beckham, and encouraged by teammates Zidane, Raúl, McManaman and Fernando Morientes, Makélélé decided to ask for an improved contract. The Real management flatly refused to consider his request [3]. Upset, Makélélé handed in a transfer request, whereupon he was signed by Chelsea. Club president Florentino Pérez infamously poured scorn on Makélélé's footballing abilities and proclaimed that Makélélé would not be missed: "We will not miss Makélélé. 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. Younger players will arrive who will cause Makélélé to be forgotten." [4]

His opinion differed from that of players like Zidane, who remarked the following after Makélélé was sold and Beckham was bought:"Why put another layer of gold paint on the Bentley when you are losing the entire engine?". In his autobiography, published in 2006, McManaman described Makélélé as the most important and yet least appreciated midfielder at Real. Retired former Real Madrid player and captain Fernando Hierro also criticised Pérez for both Makélélé's departure and the manner of his departure, saying: "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 Makélélé was the beginning of the end for Los Galacticos... You can see that it was also the beginning of a new dawn for Chelsea. He was the base, the key and I think he is the same to Chelsea now."[5]

For the past several years since Makélélé's departure, Real Madrid have failed to progress past the quarter-finals of the Champions League.

Chelsea career

Makélélé (right) with former Chelsea teammate Alex.

In the summer of 2003, he signed for Chelsea for £16.8million, where then manager Claudio Ranieri proclaimed that Makélélé would be the "battery" of the team [6]. Chelsea finished second in the 2003-04 FA Premier League and were eliminated by AS Monaco in the semi-finals of the UEFA Champions League.

Following the sacking of Ranieri and his succession by José Mourinho, Makélélé was a key player in Chelsea's successful 2004-05 season, winning both the Premiership and the League Cup. His defensive qualities allowed the likes of Frank Lampard, Joe Cole, Arjen Robben, Damien Duff, Eiður Guðjohnsen, and Didier Drogba to parade their attacking skills. Makélélé's importance was recognized by Mourinho, who declared him Chelsea's "Player of the Year."

To cap off the 2004-05 season for the Frenchman, he was allowed to take a penalty awarded to Chelsea in the game against Charlton Athletic on the day the Premiership trophy was due to be presented. The Charlton keeper, Stephan Andersen, saved it, but Makélélé scored on the rebound.[7]. In September 2005, he was selected as a member of the World XI at the FIFPro awards. The team was chosen by a vote of professional footballers in 40 countries. He added to his sizeable medal haul the following season, winning both the FA Community Shield and the Premier League.

In March 2006, Fulham defeated Chelsea 1-0 in a Premiership game in which Fulham manager Chris Coleman's tactics centered on bypassing Makélélé on the wings when Fulham had possession and putting midfielders on Makélélé when Chelsea were in possession. With Makélélé struggling to function effectively, Chelsea lost the game. Coleman later explained that Makélélé was more than a mere defensive midfielder, but was actually Chelsea's deep-lying playmaker, and Chelsea's attacks were channeled through him. Thus, denying him possession was instrumental in unravelling Chelsea. Mourinho was subsequently forced to counter this tactic by withdrawing Lampard and Michael Essien further back in midfield to relieve the pressure on Makélélé [8]

On 5 November 2006, in a league encounter with Tottenham Hotspur, Makélélé scored his second goal for the club, a difficult curling volley from the edge of the 18-yard box which sped past Paul Robinson into the left-hand side of the goal to cue a bench-clearing celebration. However, Tottenham sprang a comeback to beat Chelsea 2-1, the first defeat Chelsea had conceded to Tottenham in over a decade. However, this goal got him the best shot to goals percentage that year with one shot and one goal - 100%.

On 5 December 2006, in a League Cup game against Newcastle United, Makélélé wore the captain's armband in John Terry's absence and with Lampard rested. He was substituted at half-time for Lampard.

Makélélé also wore the captain's armband the following season, when Terry, Lampard, and Michael Ballack were all unavailable. Makélélé was captain even when Terry and Lampard returned, for a crucial Champions League tie against Olympiacos, but Terry returned as captain the following weekend for the League Cup defeat against Tottenham.

The 2007-08 season was a period of renaissance for the 35-year-old Makélélé, as he played in the majority of Chelsea's fixtures. Despite an ear infection that made him miss an early part of the season, he regained his place and forced Michael Essien into the right-back position, effectively pushing Juliano Belletti out of the team. Makélélé was instrumental in Chelsea's run to the Champions League final, but they were defeated on penalties by Manchester United. He was widely recognized as a pivotal figure in the Blues capturing two Premier League titles and three domestic cups since 2004.

After Chelsea

On 18 July 2008, it was reported that Makélélé was about to take a medical the following day in Paris ahead of a proposed move back to French football. On 21 July, Chelsea announced they had released Makélélé on a free transfer, while Paris Saint-Germain confirmed that the player would join them and would be unveiled at a press conference that afternoon.[9]

Makelélé announced on 12th June 2010, that he would be staying on at PSG for another season after signing a one-year deal with the French club.[10] Since joining the club in 2008, he has gone on to make 76 appearances for them, scoring once in the process.


Makélélé has had a successful international career playing for France. By the end of 2004, he had gained 33 caps, and played for his country at the 1996 Olympic Games, the 2002 World Cup, and Euro 2004.

Makélélé decided to retire from international football in September 2004, in order to focus on club football with Chelsea, but eleven months later, in August 2005, he and compatriots Zinédine Zidane and Lilian Thuram were persuaded out of retirement to help France qualify for the 2006 World Cup in Germany.

As a member of the France national football team competing at the 2006 World Cup, Makélélé's performances as a tireless midfield spoiler were invaluable to France's progress to the final as they defeated Spain, the defending champions Brazil and Euro 2004 finalists Portugal in the knock-out rounds. His partnership with Patrick Vieira in the defensive midfield proved effective as the team conceded only three goals in seven games, a tally only bested by world champions Italy.

After the defeat to Italy on penalties in the World Cup Final, Makélélé initially commented that he was again going to retire from international football. However, he continued to play for France in their qualifiers for Euro 2008 and even the Euro 2008 finals. He again announced his retirement from international football on 17 June 2008, after France's 2-0 defeat to Italy, along with Thuram again.[11]


Season Prem FA Cup League Cup Europe Other Total
Apps Goals Apps Goals Apps Goals Apps Goals Apps Goals Apps Goals
2003-04 30 0 3 0 2 0 11 0 0 0 46 0
2004-05 36 1 0 0 4 0 10 0 0 0 50 1
2005-06 31 0 3 0 0 0 6 0 1 0 41 0
2006-07 29 1 2 0 6 0 9 0 0 0 46 1
2007-08 18 0 1 0 2 0 13 0 0 0 34 0
Total 144 2 9 0 14 0 49 0 1 0 217 2


# Season Date Year Competition Opponent Score Result Venue
12004-0507 May2005Premier LeagueCharlton Athletic1-01-0Stamford Bridge
22006-0705 November2006Premier LeagueTottenham Hotspur1-01-2White Hart Lane

Career honours

FC Nantes
Real Madrid
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