Makelele, Casemiro: Zidane’s perfect bodyguards

February 16, 2017

Zinedine Zidane joined Real Madrid as a player in 2001 and when he stepped into the dressing room, he met a man who changed his career.

That man was Claude Makelele, who became the perfect midfield shield for Zidane during the two seasons they spent together in the Spanish capital.

Now, the story has been repeated. Zidane is no longer a player but as coach at the Estadio Santiago Bernabeu, he has found his Makelele, in the form of Casemiro.

Makelele, who played for Los Blancos from 2000 until 2003 before joining Chelsea, was under no illusions as to what his job was.

“My mission on the field was to win the ball and give it to Zidane,” he admitted. “That made things less complicated for us, everything was simple and I was happy.”

The France international often achieved his task perfectly throughout his time at Real and although he and Zidane spent only two seasons together, there was a tremendous understanding between the pair.

So determined was he to provide Zidane with the ball and allow him to work his magic in attack that in all the games they played together for club and country, Makelele never scored a goal of his own.

Similarly, the situation is now being mirrored with Zidane again finding a defensive midfielder who he has the utmost faith in and who he considers an essential part of the side.

Under Carlo Ancelotti, the former Sao Paulo man had very few opportunities but found himself featuring a little more under Rafael Benitez, albeit never completely winning his trust.

With Zidane, things have been much different, so much so that Real Madrid haven’t lost a game since he returned from injury.

Like Makelele, the 24-year-old’s mission is to make things easier for Zidane, his coach. He guards his territory, hassles opposition players and wins the ball back when required.

The only difference is that, unlike Makelele, he is capable of springing a surprise every so often in the offensive side of his game, as his stunning volley against Napoli showed.

That strike is the best demonstration that the Brazilian is more than a midfielder whose role is to win back the ball and feed it to his side’s more established attacking talents.

Although he doesn’t have Zidane at his side to feed the ball to, he does have Toni Kroos and Luka Modric, two top level architects who are just as capable of hurting the opposition.


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