Claude Makelele is seen as the perfect prototype the modern day defensive midfielder must model his game after, if he wants to be considered a success.
The France legend and former Chelsea star is credited for changing the course of the “anchor man” role in football, hence his getting the midfield position named after him by the English press, fans and football aficionados alike following successful campaigns with the west London giants.
How the job of a defensive midfielder would be the eventually viewed actually started with Makelele’s position and role in the Real Madrid Los Galacticos team of 2002.
With his hold on the role in midfield, the La Liga side emerged winners of that season’s Champions League, but it was at Chelsea the importance of the position was really underlined under the guidance of Jose Mourinho.
Whilst the Blues held sway in the top flight, he was deployed right in front of the team’s rearguard, providing some sort of additional cover for the central defenders, and linking play to the attackers right from the back.
As clearly defined by the man whose name has forever been etched on the sands of time in football, the role means the defensive midfielder has to be tactically sound when positioning himself all through the game, as that is most pertinent if any mark is to be made from working in such important role. Drift out of position for a minute and danger strikes.
With that sorted, the midfielder is so enhanced to make few connective touches, break up opposition attacks, dictate the pace and tempo of the game. He is also saddled with the responsibility of taking the majority of the workload off the ball, thereby creating space for the midfielders to operate and roam with more freedom.
The deep-lying playmaking role ensures a triangle is formed with the 2 central defenders, and also with the 2 central midfielders, hence, creating a 4-5-1 formation which sees the side at an advantage over teams with different formations. This is provided the anchor knows, and does his job very well at all time.
N’golo Kante represents that perfect fit in the Makelele role, and he was largely the unsung hero during Leicester City’s surprise campaign win last season. He has been able to almost replicate such with Chelsea, only that some of the other players have largely failed to perform up to required standard in their positions, subsequently belittling Kante’s efforts. And making him to do more than necessary.
Busquets, Alonso, and Casemiro are some others players who also highlight the Makelele role, and they have recorded enviable level of successes, helping their sides to titles and trophies.
It’s not a role that comes under the spotlight every now and then, due to the fact that players in such positions don’t get to score many goals or create a lot of scoring chances for their teammates.
However, it is their hard work that makes all-round success on the field of play possible, and the importance of such role must never be underemphasized.