Happy Birthday Claude Makelele: Top three Chelsea performances

The Blues legend turned 41 yesterday and, to celebrate, here's a trip down memory lane regarding three of his best displays for the club he joined from Real Madrid back in 2003.

Real Madrid's former president Florentino Perez once famously remarked that his side would be better for the loss of Claude Makelele, suggesting the defensive midfielder lacked the dynamism required to help take the club where they wanted to go.

His loss would be Chelsea's gain as the Blues began a trophy haul which would see them win two Premier League trophies, an FA Cup and two league cups while the Frenchman was anchoring a midfield containing the likes of Frank Lampard, Michael Essien and Michael Ballack all at their pomp.

Perez's exact words at the time were: "We will not miss him, his technique is average, he lacks speed and skill, his distribution goes backwards or sideways. New players will arrive to make us forget Makelele."

And on his 41st birthday, it seemed fitting to tribute a man who has a position now named after him, even though many a midfielder has failed to come close to matching the value of the 'Makelele role'.

Chelsea 1-0 Charlton Athletic (7 May 2005)

The Blues had already secured their first-ever Premier League title after assembling a world-class squad to cap Roman Abramovich's spending spree but were toiling towards a draw against Charlton.

There was never any tangible threat of conceding with Makelele marshalling the midfield but they were unable to find a way through a stubborn Addicks rearguard until Frank Lampard was upended by Jonathan Fortune in the are.

The ball and honours were duly handed over to Makelele - who had never previously scored for the Blues. His spot-kick was tame and was parried away by Stephan Andersen but in typical combative fashion, he wasn't to be denied as he forced home the rebound to send Stamford Bridge into raptures 

Tottenham 2-1 Chelsea (5 Nov 2006)

Makelele was renowned for his ability to rob opponents of possession and play a simple pass not unleashing 25-yard blockbusters, as he did here.

His all-action style was evident throughout despite the defeat to their London rivals but it was his goalscoring contribution once more which raised eyebrows.

When the ball fell loose at the edge of the area, Makelele took aim with a right-footed volley which flew into the bottom corner past the despairing dive of Paul Robinson.

You could tell it was the Frenchman who had scored it as he was mobbed by team-mates, who appreciated his role in the side so much that it was always a pleasant surprise to see him score. 

Chelsea 3-2 Liverpool (30 Apr 2008)

The Blues' run to the 2008 Champions League final was shaped around the defensive discipline of Makelele and, although it was ultimately a futile attempt to earn their first ever European crown, the Frenchman's form was key to them reaching the final.

He excelled in both legs of the Champions League semi final against Liverpool but it was his performance in the return fixture at Stamford Bridge which really epitomised his worth to Chelsea.

With Avram Grant's side going all out to reach the final, a level of defensive discipline was required to combat Liverpool's threat on the counter. Despite the Reds scoring twice, it could have been far worse but for the positional sense and responsibility towards sticking to his task in midfield.

image: © bensutherland

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