Celta Vigo and the birth of the Makélélé role

Celta Vigo and the birth of the Makélélé role

By the time Claude Makélélé left Chelsea in 2008 he was widely heralded as one of the finest defensive midfielders the game had seen. His selfless defensive work was a driving force in the Chelsea side considered one of the finest in English football history.

Makélélé mastered the holding role in Jose Mourinho’s 3 man midfield, helping them to 6 trophies in 8 years.

Makélélé had, in fact, started out his playing career as an industrious if slightly unspectacular winger at French side Nantes. He would find success, winning the French title in 94/95. His form attracted first Marseille and then the highly ambitious Celta Vigo.

Makélélé landed the on the wet and windy Galician coast of Spain in 1998 and it would be here at Vigo that we would begin to see the birth of what we now know as the Makélélé role.

Manager Victor Fernandez paired the Frenchman alongside Brazilian World Cup winner Mazinho, a player who Makélélé credits with his successful move inside. Mazinho, Makélélé states, was like a coach beside him on the pitch, always instructing him positionally. Their partnership, along with the talents of Russian attacking pair Karpin and Mostovoi made Celta, for a year or two, one of the most exciting sides in Europe.

With Makélélé in midfield Celta would record landmark victories, most notably a 4-0 win at Juventus in the UEFA Cup as well as 5th and 7th places finishes in the league. The Frenchman‘s form was being monitored by some of Europe’s biggest clubs and Makélélé’s head was turned, in the end the always strong willed Frenchman went on strike to force through an exit. The ploy worked and in the summer of 2000 Makélélé would achieve his dream move to Spanish giants Real Madrid, where he would become the anchor of the famous Galacticos side of the early 2000. Vigo received just £12 million for the Frenchman.

It would not be until his move to Chelsea and specifically after the appointment of Jose Mourinho that we would see the Makélélé role reach its final form but there’s little doubt that his time in Galicia, under the tutelage of the great Mazinho, shaped the player he would become.


Words by Andy Gallagher


Back to blog

Leave a comment