Galactico Star: The Unsung Hero of Real Madrid’s Midfield

In 2004, Zinedine Zidane expressed his incredulity when Florentino Perez decided to sell Claude Makelele to Chelsea, stating, “Why would you put another gold layer on a Bentley when you have already lost its engine?”

The decision to part ways with Makelele, one of the finest defensive midfielders in football history, left many baffled. A year earlier, Perez had verbally agreed to offer Makelele a new contract and a pay increase. However, the arrival of David Beckham at the Bernabeu left Real Madrid short on funds for Makelele’s renewal, resulting in public disagreements between Perez and the Frenchman.

Perez criticized Makelele’s ability to distribute the ball, claiming he rarely passed it for more than three meters. He also suggested that “younger players will arrive who will cause Makelele to be forgotten.”

These remarks sharply contrasted with the opinions of Makelele’s teammates. Zidane likened him to a vital engine, while Steve McManaman referred to him as “the most important and yet least appreciated midfielder at Real.” Former Real Madrid captain Fernando Hierro declared Makelele to be the team’s best player for years, despite going largely unnoticed by fans.

Makelele’s influence was profound, as he revolutionized the role of the central defensive midfielder, halting opposition attacks before they reached Real Madrid’s defenders.

Remarkably, when Zidane assumed the role of head coach at Real Madrid, he cultivated a new version of Makelele in Casemiro, further highlighting the lasting impact of the Frenchman’s legacy.

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