Claude Makelele perfected the art of the defensive midfielder and pioneered a position that is now virtually essential to any contemporary football team.
Here are a list of Europe's three most promising defensive midfielders who all ply their trade in 'the Makelele role'.
Oriol Romeu | Chelsea
Oriol Romeu is a muscular, tough-tackling midfielder - hardly the typical graduate of Barcelona’s famed youth academy. But since stepping into the spotlight at Chelsea, Romeu has certainly shown his Catalan origins with his intelligent positioning and simple short passing.
The Spaniard has all the attributes to be an effective midfield anchor. He is strong in the tackle, intelligent in possession and has good positioning, but Romeu’s ability to pick a pass is what sets him apart from Makelele.
Spain Under-21 manager Luis Milla complimented the 21-year-old as a player who "uses the ball correctly in possession and always does the simple thing".
Andre Villas-Boas, the manager who lured the young Spaniard from the Nou Camp also clearly admires the clever midfielder - the former Chelsea manager singles out Romeu as "one of the midfielders with the greatest potential there is. He has a brilliant future".
Ironically, the man who only lasted nine months in the job at the Bridge may have secured the Blues one of their brightest future stars.
To further highlight the impeccable quality of the Spain Under-23 international, Barça are keen to activate the buy-back clause nestled within the contract of their former player.
Sven Bender | Borussia Dortmund
Any player who catches the eye of Sir Alex Ferguson is likely to be a superstar in the making - Bebé and Gabriel Obertan excluded - and Sven Bender is tipped as the Scot’s number one target to partner Michael Carrick in the United midfield.
Since arriving at Signal Iduna Park in 2009, the Germany international has cemented himself as a permanent midfield fixture at ‘Die Schwarzgelben’. Sir Alex would be expected to cough up £15m to sign the talented enforcer, but that is a small price to pay for a 23-year-old that is already looking like becoming one of the best in his position.
Despite suffering an injury plagued 2012/13 season, the 23-year-old has successful made 62 tackles in just 15 appearances for Borussia Dortmund so far this term – exactly the defensive expertise lacking in the Old Trafford midfield.
Dortmund’s choice to loan midfield team-mate Nuri Sahin to Liverpool last season underlines the faith manager Jurgen Klopp has in the young prodigy - so perhaps even £15m will not be enough to prize Bender away from the Bundesliga champions.
Maxime Gonalons | Olympique Lyon
Relatively unheard of prior to his transfer links with Arsenal last month, Arsène Wenger was no doubt chasing Maxime Gonalons to beef up his creative but delicate midfield.
Similar to Makelele in his Chelsea days, the Lyon man provides the muscle and positional awareness to protect his more creative midfield team-mates.
The robust albeit key cog in Rémi Garde’s midfield has been impressive with his defensive work this season, racking up 101 tackles and 82 interceptions in 27 appearances in Ligue 1 this season.
Gonalons joined the Stade de Gerland outfit at 10-years-old but, now 24, it’s surprising that despite his admirable loyalty to the club, the talented Frenchman has not moved on to a bigger challenge yet.
However, the Vénissieux-born man is clearly a formidable opponent in the middle of the park. I wouldn’t bet against Wenger coming back for Gonalons in the summer transfer window.
Can any of Romeu, Bender or Gonalons ever match Makelele for defensive solidity in midfield? Have your say in the comments section below.
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