CLAUDE MAKELELE vividly remembers Chelsea before the Jose Mourinho era.
He walked into the dressing room at Stamford Bridge in 2003 and was shocked.
There were multi-million-pound players and talent aplenty thanks to Roman Abramovich’s cash — but no belief that the Premier League big boys could be toppled.
Makelele himself tried to change that mentality but it was not until Mourinho arrived a year later that the transformation into winners was complete.
Mourinho may be currently struggling at Manchester United but it comes as no surprise that he acts as a huge inspiration to Makelele, who is taking his first steps in management.
The Frenchman, 45, said: “When I first arrived at Chelsea, I saw something that shocked me.
The pair won the Premier League twice together at Stamford Bridge[/caption]
The Frenchman was so integral at Chelsea he had a position named after him – ‘the Makelele role’[/caption]
“There were big teams, Manchester United and Arsenal, and all the time we would play them and I’d hear, ‘F***ing hell, it’s going to be difficult’.
“What? We can’t beat Arsenal? My team-mates were insecure and that shocked me, I had come from Real Madrid where I won everything.
“I understood my team-mates — Arsenal won with Thierry Henry scoring and with Patrick Vieira.
“But they were my friends and I played with them for the national team and I wouldn’t be afraid.
Makelele came to a country where Thierry Henry’s Arsenal were ruling[/caption]
Makelele was familiar with Henry from the national team[/caption]
“When I saw this, I wanted to change it with my team-mates and say ‘No, this is possible’. We did change the mentality and, after, we beat them all the time and were fighting for the Premier League.
“I learnt a lot with Mourinho about being a competitor, about being focused on details and the consequences of your management.
“He made me understand football in a different way. Football is not just happiness. He makes you understand about society, partnerships, fans, media, every detail.
“And that is more important than ever in football. You need to be in control of this.”
Makelele has praised Mourinho who is under pressure at Manchester United[/caption]
Makelele has been assistant manager at Real Madrid and Swansea, either side of an ill-fated six-month spell as Bastia boss in Ligue 1.
He is now manager of KAS Eupen, a Belgian top-flight club located near the eastern border with Germany.
It is a world away from winning Premier League titles but Makelele does not forget what it takes to change a club around. He rescued Eupen from relegation last season and is surely destined to one day return to England as a manager.
Sitting in the directors’ box at the 8,363-capacity Kehrwegstadion, Makelele loves talking football.
Makelele has come up against Mourinho during his time as Swansea assistant[/caption]
Former Real Madrid midfielder also worked as an assistant at the Bernabeu[/caption]
The man who had a position named after him explains how the ‘Makelele Role’ just came naturally, as he could read games and protect his defenders.
He loves watching his fellow countryman N’Golo Kante playing the way he used to in the Blues midfield.
Makelele said: “People talk a lot about Kante and I love this boy because he has that capacity to give his quality to his team-mates.
“He plays for his team-mates. Happiness. Serious. Focused about details.
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“He runs, gives the ball, sometimes scores. It is a good example to people. You see this boy and you enjoy it.”
As a boss, Makelele has needed to draw on the experiences he had with Vicente del Bosque at Real Madrid, Jean-Claude Suaudeau at Nantes and, of course, Mourinho.
His old Bernabeu team-mate Zinedine Zidane went straight to the top with his first job — not that Makelele begrudges him that.
Makelele’s former Madrid and France teammate Zinedine Zidane has been linked with United[/caption]
He said: “Zizou had the opportunity, he has talent and a strong message to the players. And the players believe him.
“You tell this kind of player to come to Eupen, do you think he would want to come?
“They thought I was like a messiah when I came here. I told them football is not like this.
“I just gave messages to the players to believe anything is possible in football — ‘We could save the club, we could save the team and we will’.
“For me, it will help me more for my future. It’s not a dream. I know I want to be at the top level one day when I am prepared for it.”
Makelele was the ultimate team man — sacrificing glory to protect his defence.
Back when he started at Nantes, he had more attacking instincts.
Against Juventus in the 1996 Champions League semi-final Makelele wore No 7. “I was like a winger,” he joked.
The change came naturally and he insists his role is just as important as other positions occupied by more naturally-gifted players.
He said: “I don’t know why but I knew exactly what was going to happen to make that decision. It was like a sixth sense.
“I made a story in the world about that position. It is like Messi. Before he gets the ball you know exactly what is going to happen. Can you explain why or how?
“It is just in my head. It is like having an engine in your head. You don’t know why you have it.
“This position is the worst position in football and you need to love playing in the role.
“It is a position where the ball and everyone else goes everywhere on the pitch, in every corner, and it always comes back here to the middle.”
Makelele is not surprised that his old Stamford Bridge pals are heading into management, with Frank Lampard at Derby and John Terry in the backroom staff at Aston Villa.
Makelele’s former teammates John Terry and Frank Lampard have gone into coaching[/caption]
He saw their qualities when Chelsea were turned from also-rans into champions.
Rolling up his sleeves, Makelele enthused: “The word is leadership. It is very important in a team.
“You can have personalities in the team but when you need to go to war, it is different.
“The first people who do this show leadership. When one shows good leadership, good mentality and is a team-mate, all the others follow him, 100 per cent.”