The Heir Apparent; Reinventing The Makélélé Role, The Nutritive N’Golo Kanté

Kante(The Engine Of The Fearless Foxes)
The Engine Of The Fearless Foxes | N’Golo Kante
ClaudeMaklele(Legendary Boots To Fiil)
Legendary Boots To Fill | Claude Makelele


For many football purists, it’s not uncommon to have one player redefine the way we look at an individual role and the value it adds to the overall team game; one such player, who changed the way we viewed defensive midfielders was a bite-sized French destroyer of African origin named Claude Makalele. The legendary holding midfielder has forever revolutionised the way many look at defensive minded players today; while the rise to prominence of the Regista {the Deep-Lying Playmaker} can be largely attributed to a legend named Andrea Pirlo, an effective holding midfield player will always be judged by the Makélélé standard when playing in the Makélélé Role.

Not the most technically gifted or the most physically imposing, yet Claude was blessed with great anticipation and ox-like strength in the tackle; when one combines such good defensive attributes with the mindset to play as a foil for the defence and remain composed while under pressure, you have the quintessential midfield enforcer that needn’t be a hard-man that picks up unnecessary cautions due to an over aggressive nature or poor positional sense.

Whether a team plays purist attacking football or looks to absorb pressure and hit the opposition on the break, in this modern age of high-pressing and less possession dominated football, every team has the need for an able defensive midfielder that breaks up play efficiently and offers a reliable shield for the defensive line. While some gaffers will nitpick attributes like passing ability and overall offensive output when assessing defensive midfield players, there remains no substitute for a defensive midfield general that knows the art of defending and is well versed in the Makélélé art of holding one’s position and affording the more technically gifted players an optimal opportunity to be effective in attack.

The comparisons between the two players are to be taken with a pinch of salt, when one considers the advancements in the game and the expectations placed on holding midfield players in more 3-man midfields that offer less space and demand more defensive organisation and ball-winning capabilities; yet Kanté remains one of the finest proponents of how successful a good team becomes when they have a dedicated midfielder that seeks to win the ball off the opposition and afford his teammates an opportunity to create more attacking chances for themselves.


Claude Makalele begun his professional career at FC Nantes after joining them from Brest as an 18 year old in 1991, the same year Kanté was born; Claude went on to win a league title and register a Champions League semi-final appearance in his 5 year stint at the club, as the more illustrious Olympique de Marseille came in for the tenacious midfielder who was showing great promise while being deployed in a myriad of midfield positions. His stay at Marseille lasted just one season, before Claude was packing his bags for Spain; 2 successful seasons at Celta Vigo saw Makélélé develop into one of the most effective holding midfield players in world football after spending some time playing further up field and out wide. The bite sized bundle of energy had reinvented himself as a premier holding midfield player that had the maturity to do his job effectively in a successful side.

Such great form saw Claude sign for the most illustrious football club in the world, and he quickly established himself as one of the most irreplaceable Galaticos, if not the most undervalued one. 3 trophy laden seasons at Real came to an unceremonious end as his request for wages befitting his importance was rebuffed by the chairman. Claude was snapped up by Claudio Ranieri for the ambitious Chelsea side in 2003 and he helped form the backbone for the squad that José Mourinho enjoyed great success with. The Blues established themselves as a powerhouse club off the back of impressive performances inspired by a midfield anchored by the immovable Makélélé, a man that changed how British football viewed defensive midfield players to this day.  6 trophies in 5 seasons at Stamford Bridge, and the honour of having a position named after him, when some lads are fortunate to earn testimonial matches, are a testament to the immeasurable value Claude added to any team he played for. The great man retired at PSG, where he managed to win his final trophy in the city where he spent his childhood.


A proud product of the US Boulogne youth academy, the same club that gave Franck Ribéry his professional break, N’Golo Kanté turned pro in 2012 as he made his debut in a 2-1 home loss to AS Monaco as a 21 year old prospect. The Paris born midfielder broke into the 1st team setup during the 2012-13 season, where his stellar performances and all-action game led to him being noticed by ambitious Ligue 2 side Stade Malherbe de Caen.

An impressive debut season with Caen saw the team finish 3rd and earn promotion to Ligue 1; Kanté continued his impressive development in the French top flight during his second season at the club, dominant displays saw his star rise as comparisons to the legendary Makélélé begun to surface. Interest in the now established midfield enforcer was high during the off-season, and the defensive midfielder deficient Arsenal were just one of the many clubs linked with a young man that seemed destined to shine at the highest level. His current club, Leicester City had been linked to the diminutive enforcer even before Claudio Ranieri penned on the dotted line on July 13th of 2015; to the shock of many pundits and fans alike, The Foxes spent a considerable £5.6m to beat off all competition from Southampton, Newcastle United, West Ham United and Olympique de Marseille in early August of 2015 to acquire the signing of a player that has already repaid a large portion of his transfer fee with scintillating displays in midfield for the surprise table toppers this season.

Although many have noted how unique N’Golo Kanté is in comparison to his predecessor; Claude was a designated holding midfielder who rarely moved from his station and closed down opposition attackers once they entered his defensive 3rd of the field before disarming dangerous attacking moves, while Kante is the modern age version of what Claude was, a talented lad who uses his great defensive attributes and outstanding levels of athleticism to press opposition players higher up the field and win the ball back in positions where his fellow teammates can launch potent counter-attacks when the opposition is destabilised defensively. If one had any fears of the defensive midfielder role becoming obsolete as football evolves, N’Golo Kanté is a glimmer of hope for all who marvelled at the brilliance and unselfish nature of Claude Makélélé and the generations of anchormen he has inspired to go on and star in the Makélélé Role.

Claude Makélélé

Full Name: Claude Makélélé Sinda

DoB; February 18th, 1973 (42)

PoB: Kinshasa, Zaire (Now Democratic Republic of the Congo)

Height: 1.70m

Positions: Anchorman, Defensive Midfielder, Ball-Winning Midfielder, Deep-Lying Playmaker

Preferred Foot: Right

Professional Career Span: 1991 – 2011

Previous Clubs: FC Nantes (91-97), Marseille (97-98), Celta Vigo (98-’00), Real Madrid (’00-’03), Chelsea (’03-’08), Paris Saint-Germain (’08-’11)

Youth Development nests: US Melun (89-90), Stade Brestois (90-91)

Career Club Record: 573 Games, 10 Goals, 13 Assists, 101 Yellow Cards, 2 Double Yellow/Red Cards

Career Club Honours: Ligue 1, Nantes (94-95); La Liga, Real Madrid (00-01 & 02-03); Supercopa de España, Real Madrid (2001 & 2003); UEFA Champions League, Real Madrid (01-02); UEFA Super Cup, Real Madrid (2002); Intercontinental Cup, Real Madrid (2002); English Premier League, Chelsea (04-05 & 05-06); League Cup, Chelsea (04-05 & 06-07); English Community Shield, Chelsea (05); English FA Cup, Chelsea (06-07); Coupe de  France, Paris Saint-Germain (09-2010)

International Career

Record: 72 Caps, 2 Assists, 7 Yellow Cards, 1 Double Yellow/ Red Card

Honours: FIFA World Cup Runner-Up (2006)

Personal Accolades: 2005 FIFPro World XI, UNFPT Trophée d’honner (2010)

N’Golo Kanté


DoB: March 29th, 1991 (24)

PoB: Paris, France

Nationalities: French, Malian

Caps & Goals: N/A

Position/s: Anchorman, Defensive Midfielder, Ball-Winning Midfielder, Box-To-Box Midfielder

Height: 1.69m

Preferred Foot: Right

Club: Leicester City FC

Club Jersey No: #14

Contract Expiry: June 30th, 2019

Previous Clubs: US Boulogne (July ’12 – July – ’13), SM Caen (July ’13 – August ’15)

Development Academies: JS Suresnes, US Boulogne

Career Club Record: 102 Games, 7 Goals, 11 Assists, 11 Yellow Cards, 1 Double Yellow/ Red Card


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