“We will not miss Claude Makelele,” Real Madrid president Florentino Perez confidently claimed after the midfielder was sold to Chelsea in the summer of 2003.
“His technique is average, he lacks the speed and skill to take the ball past opponents, and 99 per cent of his distribution either goes backwards or sideways. He wasn’t a header of the ball and he rarely passed the ball more than three metres.”
Perez had, rather empathically, missed the point. Those supposed weaknesses were exactly what made Makelele so important to Real Madrid; he did the dirty work that allowed others to shine.
Zinedine Zidane knew that and famously quipped: “Why put another layer of gold paint on the Bentley when you are losing the entire engine?”
Real’s mistake was undoubtedly Chelsea’s gain. Los Blancos didn’t win another trophy for three years after Makelele’s departure. Over that same period, with the Frenchman at the base of their midfield, the Blues twice won the Premier League.
It is unfathomable such a mistake would be made in the modern game, especially given the increasing influence of data analytics.
But history has a way of repeating itself, rarely for the good.
Which is why Chelsea fans might have been concerned by recent reports which claim the club are, if needed, prepared to sell N’Golo Kante this summer to fund deals for Kai Havertz and Ben Chilwell.
It’s not been an easy season for the World Cup winner. Injuries have restricted Kante to just 21 starts in all competitions, by far the fewest he has managed since arriving from Leicester City in 2016.
The debate over whether he is being used correctly has raged on, too.
Lampard, like predecessor Maurizio Sarri, has predominantly utilised the Frenchman as a box-to-box midfielder with Jorginho deployed as a regista in front of the defence.
However, many feel Kante is best used in the…