“It was my father who forced me to leave Real Madrid, I didn’t want to leave”

Claude Makelele hosted AS at Chelsea’s training ground in Cobham. The former player of “Real” answered many questions.

How is your life going?

Well, I’m alive! And about football. You don’t see me much, of course, because I like to keep quiet. As we say here, underground is the best place to work…

What are you doing at Chelsea?

I am the sports director of the Academy. We keep a close eye on young people, especially when they go abroad. Here they are comfortable at home, but when they leave, they discover the reality of football. And here we try to follow them.

Does Makelele need to be related to football?

Yes, yes… It has been my life since I was very young. If you give up active football and walk away from it, you lose yourself. It’s a very different life if you suddenly come into society like that.

There are football players who feel like they are facing the abyss when they retire…

I was about to retire. I guessed it. The main thing is that no one is forcing you to leave football. It’s traumatic. If you have the strength and dedication, you can play until 40, but if someone decides to stop you, it becomes difficult to move on to another life. When I decided to quit myself, I quit.

why did you stop

I saw that it was difficult to share this selfless life and serious professionalism that I had with the new generation.

Was it like that?

It was suddenly difficult for me to manage the players on the field. I am the winner. I said, “Well, Claude, it is.” I’ve seen, I don’t know, there are people around me who use football for other things, but don’t like football. I have always loved football. Yes, I’m working to get ahead, live well and have more money, but I’m always in love with football.

What did you do in retirement?

I was at PSG and the Qataris had just arrived. They asked me to stay and I worked with Leonardo who had just arrived as sports director. But listen, I’m not an office person (laughs). One day I sat with Leonardo, Ancelotti asked for someone to help him on the bench and I stayed with him.

What was it like working with Ancelotti for the second time?

It was interesting. I saw a calm coach, what is he doing now in Madrid. In person. He knows very well how to manage his human aspect. He gave me the opportunity to do what I wanted, to talk to the players.

What did you learn from it?

He told me: “To be a coach, you have to know yourself, you have to accept yourself. If you don’t know yourself, you can’t manage people.” And this is true.

Does he remind you of Del Bosque?

Very… They are two coaches who don’t talk much. This is enough with their way of being, body language, looks. That way they send a message and you know what they want. They control the stars and this level of player understands everything in few words. You have to explain a lot to the average player.

What does Del Bosque represent in your career?

I took a big step to have the lead with him. I stopped being just a good player to be able to talk to my teammates on the field, to have the ability to make decisions. Sometimes a coach can’t get in touch with his players quickly, or at least not until halftime, and someone has to take the initiative. He gave me tasks and released me because Real Madrid is a very difficult club…

Did you have trouble adjusting?

It was difficult because I came because of Redondo. Just imagine. Redondo was king at Real Madrid and I had to play in his position. That combined with the confusion of Figo’s arrival… I don’t know, it was all a bit complicated and difficult for me. Listen, when Bernabeu whistles at you, you fuck yourself (laughs).

Are you ahead of your time?

I didn’t feel that way at the time. Journalists, fans… Everyone saw me as a simple physical football player. No one knew that I had a lot of technique. Technique isn’t just about passing or dribbling well, that’s true. Technique is knowing how to attack and defend. He goes with the ball to break the lines… But my friends and teammates knew that. Great players recognize themselves very quickly.

Have you ever felt misunderstood by others?

I was a winger in Marseille and Nantes! I was a great dribbler… I started playing there. But at that time I liked my job at Celta or Madrid. I was not misunderstood. I liked to run 15 kilometers in a match, fight, fight for others. It gave me a lot of adrenaline. It came naturally to me.

Who taught you the keys to position 5?

My father.

Did your father play?

Yes, internationally, in Zaire. Won the Africa Cup of Nations in 1974. He was in President Mobutu’s team, the leopards. He was a legend in my country.

What position did he play?

Number 6. He controlled everything in the middle of the pitch. And he was the one who explained to me what football is. At first he didn’t want me to play…

Why?

He knew the sacrifices that had to be made, the daily work, the difficulty of physical maintenance… And the father did not want his son to suffer, or at least he saw it that way. He even told me: “Claude, football has its limits.” You should sleep well, not party, eat well, exercise…”

Let’s talk about Tchouaméni, did you know him before he hit the international scene?

Of course… It’s my job (laughs). I spoke to Florentino when he wanted to sign the contract, he wanted to know more about the player. “Chelsea” was also interested. But if Real Madrid want you, you have to go because that’s the best way to become great. Everyone would tell the kid, “If they want you, go because you can be a big player there.”

What do you like about him?

He is a very good player. He has that dual quality of being good in midfield and knowing how to attack. He is a complete player. But to be at Madrid’s level, you have to have a personality like Modric. He has time and needs to learn from those around him.

How is his situation at Real Madrid?

Well, well… He adapts not only to Real Madrid’s game, but also to what the club stands for and all the history behind it. This is expensive. I think Ancelotti and his teammates help him a lot. The main thing is to listen and learn.

Where can it be improved?

He has to be a leader, have leadership, decide if he wants to be selfish or be there for his teammates. If the front-runners, the very good ones, win, so do you. He should be like Hierro, be a leader, like Raul… When that happens, he will write his name in the sky of Real Madrid.

Does he look like Casemiro?

I talked a lot with Casemiro. And I see his humility. He told me: “Claude, I’ve seen so many of your videos…”. And I told him: “You are better than me” (laughs). Casemiro had this wonderful ability to control the game. You are important when your teammates feel lost when you are not there.

Can Tchouaméni be like Casemiro?

He would learn Tchouamé more quickly with him.

Is Camavinga 5 or 8?

He can play either position, but I see him more where Kroos and Modric are. To play as a five, he needs time, he needs to get used to it. You can’t lose a bullet in this position, it’s very dangerous. After a year or two, he will understand the possibilities available to him. Like Tchouameni, he must find a way to be a leader while building a new team.

Are Tchouaméni and Camavinga compatible on the pitch?

The main thing is that they understand each other and do not step on each other’s fingers. Let them share what they have done for a long time like Modric and Kroos.

Will they succeed in Madrid?

It depends on them. It doesn’t depend on the coach or the teammates. If they say yes, I can, they will. They must believe it.

Did you regret leaving Madrid?

Still. I didn’t want to leave!

And why did you go?

Because my father said I had to go. We analyze everything over time and I think he is right. Of course I liked Madrid. My soul was there. I listened to him when he told me: “Claude, when someone, a person or a club doesn’t respect you once, they won’t respect you again.” It’s good if it’s sold, if it’s sold quietly… My father had great faith in my football.

Was it a matter of money?

No, no… It was about giving value. I didn’t want any money. There came a time when the club said to me: “We will give you more money.” It was little. And when the time came, they suddenly told me: “No, no, no, no… There is no money.” Beckham was bought and he was getting a certain salary.

Didn’t Madrid try to keep you?

They did, yes. “If I back down, my father will kill me,” I thought at that time (laughs). I had a conversation with Valdano: “You are great, why do you listen to your father.” I told him: “According to my education, when my father speaks, he is right, he is wrong, I am silent.” Things were already decided.

How did you meet Mbappe?

When I was with Monaco’s youth team, I was the technical director. It was when the family wanted him to train with the first team. But he also had a personality. He didn’t hesitate to say what he wanted to say.

How did you deal with this situation?

The president said he didn’t want to sign his extension because of this issue, and I said I would talk to his parents. And I sent them a message: “For me, Kilian should play his first professional match here. He has spent many years in the youth academy and should be an example for others.” This message should have been sent to the club.

So what ?

The final of the Coupe de France for the youth was approaching. I told them that he will play in this final and then I will push him to get into the first team. And so it happened. And suddenly he came to the elders and a… Ooooh! It changed everything in ten minutes.

And what happened this summer?

I was surprised by everything, of course, but you and I can talk as we want, we can write books… The only people who can tell what happened are Florentino and Mbappe.

Do you think it’s good advice?

His father knows football. He tries to protect her. This is normal.

Do you still see him coming to Real Madrid in the future?

Anything can happen…

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