So definitive as a defensive midfielder that the position was effectively renamed in his honour, Claude Makélélé won the 2001/02 UEFA Champions League with Real Madrid as well as domestic titles in France, Spain and England. The 43-year-old chatted to UEFA.com about great No10s and the next Makélélé.
UEFA.com: Who was your idol growing up?
Claude Makélélé: Pélé. My dad used to play football and he had a lot of videos of Pelé; I used to love watching what he could do. I think when I was young I saw him as an example [for me to follow].
UEFA.com: Who is the best No10 you ever had to mark?
Makélélé: [Former Brazil international] Mazinho was the toughest player I ever had to mark – he was a genius! I learned so much from him. I look at his children and I don’t think they’re as talented as their dad – he was amazing. Another who was incredibly difficult to play against was [ex-Brazil and Paris star] Valdo. You’d think he was going to take the ball left and he’d go right, or you’d think he was going right and he’d go left! All the time he’d make the opponents go where he wanted them to. It’s something I see now with Iniesta, who has similar characteristics – a similar way of protecting the ball.
UEFA.com: Which current player can do the ‘Makélélé role’ best?
Makélélé: This position is so difficult to play. You need leadership. It’s about working with your [midfield] partner, understanding each other. I do like N’Golo Kanté, but whether he’ll be better than me at it I don’t know. He needs time to learn the position, to learn more about the game. He’s a young player I like, but I hope he doesn’t get to be better than I was!
UEFA.com: How good were Zinédine Zidane and the Brazilian Ronaldo as players? Which of them was the best?
Makélélé : You can’t compare the two! They play different positions – they had different leadership qualities. I trained a lot with both Zidane and Ronaldo, and sometimes I’d stay back after training with Zidane to practise one-on-ones. I know why he wanted to do this, because he wanted to work on his qualities as a dribbler, his movement, because he’d spend every game getting kicked by his markers and he wanted to train like that too. But you just can’t compare him and Ronaldo: they’re both geniuses and both changed world football, but in different ways.
UEFA.com: Who was the best player you played with?
Makélélé: I’m not going to say Zidane, because he’s my friend and I’m always talking about him! I’m going to say Iván Helguera who played in midfield with me at Madrid. We had a great chemistry; we’d train together, we’d eat together. He knew where I’d move on the pitch, I’d know when he was going to push up and try and score. We didn’t even need to talk, just a look was enough to know what the other was going to do.