Joe Tweeds of Plains of Almeria examines the role of the multifunctional footballer…
Adroit footballers operating in several positions throughout their career is not a modern phenomenon. John Charles, arguably the finest dual-threat player ever, was both a world class centre forward and centre back; often during the same game. Likewise, players have historically operated across a back four, in midfield or attack in several defined roles. However, recent developments from both a technical and tactical perspective have seemingly taken this versatility one step further. Multifunctional players are determining European Cups and league titles and the trend looks set to continue.
Looking back at Claude Makélélé’s time with Chelsea provides the perfect juxtaposition to the modern holding midfielder. The man who is the only footballer to have an actual position named after him was the perfect defensive midfielder. Makélélé possessed a positional sense that few have ever matched, married with superlative defensive instincts. He was the battery in an expensive watch and naturally the ‘Makélélé Role’ was coined.
In a time where teams were still largely operating on a 4-4-2 basis Makélélé provided the platform for José Mourinho’s devastating counterattacking football. His role was simple and overlooked by those who ran Madrid. Their loss was undoubtedly Mourinho’s gain and Makélélé enabled Chelsea to dominate the Premier League for a two-year period. As the game evolved the requirements of the midfield anchor man deviated from those of a purely defensive failsafe. The birth of the regista (at least in the consciousness of mainstream football) gave prominence to artistic brilliance and the passing acumen of Andrea Pirlo. It even led to a domestic clamour for the conversion of David Beckham into a ‘quarterback’. Continue reading