How Claude Makelele’s Departure Hurt Real Madrid

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DORTMUND, GERMANY - FEBRUARY 25: Champions League 02/03, Dortmund; Borussia Dortmund - Real Madrid 1:1; v.l.: Luis FIGO, Claude MAKELELE, Zinedine ZIDANE, Roberto CARLOS/Madrid und Schiedsrichter Graham POLL/ENG (Photo by Sandra Behne/Bongarts/Getty Images)

“Why do you need to add a gold layer on a Bentley, when you have already lost the engine?” – These were the words of Zinedine Zidane when Claude Makelele was sold by Real Madrid to Chelsea in 2004.

The departure of the French midfielder hit the club very bad. Despite building a star-studded lineup, Madrid could not dominate Europe the way they used to after Makelele left. Meanwhile, the defensive midfielder became an irreplaceable part of a Chelsea side which went down in the Premier League history books under Mourinho.

Real Madrid president Florentino Perez has made a countless number of transfer errors. But does the Makelele transfer rank at the very top?

How Claude Makelele’s departure hurt Real Madrid

The Perez – Makelele Feud

In 2003, Florentino Perez had a verbal agreement with Claude Makelele. They wanted to offer him a new contract with a pay raise. Everything was set and according to the plan. Until one day, Madrid made one of the most talked-about transfers in their history.

David Beckham arrived at the Santiago Bernabeu after a glorious career at Manchester United where he had won the coveted treble and many league titles.

Beckham’s transfer materially hurt Makelele’s contract renewal. Madrid had no extra money to renew the midfielder’s contract let alone give him a better salary. This led to a series of public fallouts between Perez and Makelele. The ultimate result was Makelele’s departure to Chelsea.

A Huge Void Left in the Madrid Lineup

The outgoing transfer of probably their strongest midfielder created a huge imbalance in the squad. They could not dominate the midfield for a better half of almost two years. The defence and attack had lost their greatest link.

The arrival of gifted players like David Beckham and great performances by players like Zinedine Zidane couldn’t help the squad. They were mere individual glories in the face of collective failure.

Playing with Makelele was like playing with a fifth defender. Counter-attacks by the opposition could be halted before they even reached the defence. The Frenchman is said to have revolutionised the CDM (Central Defensive Midfielder) position. Absence of this mammoth presence in the midfield hurt the club the most.

After almost 13 years to this incident, Zinedine Zidane finally could do something about it. This time as the club head coach. He has finally found a player who emulated Makelele to the ‘T’ – Brazilian central midfielder Casemiro.

Casemiro has been showing exactly the same traits which his French predecessor did from 2000-2003. Only time can tell if Casemiro will go down in the history books as a perfect Makelele for Zidane’s new version of the Galacticos.

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