Very few player can claim to have had as much influence on the modern game as Claude Makelele. The Frenchman redefined the role of the defensive midfielder under the management of Jose Mourinho, and the position of is now known in England as the “Makelele role”. Since Makelele left Chelsea in 2008, many midfielders have come to England and have been compared to the former Real Madrid man, but very few have come as close as Leicester City’s N’Golo Kante.
Just like Makelele back in 2003, it was Claudio Ranieri who bought Kante to England, paying just £5.8 million to take him from Caen in the summer. Since then the 24-year-old has been a key player for Leicester, and he could still cap off his brilliant season with a Premier League title to his name.
When Jose Mourinho first took charge of Chelsea back it 2004, one of his first tasks was to install Makelele as one of his key players, in a role that would shield the defence, and allow Frank Lampard to push further forward. This was almost a revolutionary move at the time, as it was something never before used in the English game.
Kante has been given a similar role at the King Power Stadium this campaign, with his positioning allowing Danny Drinkwater to move into more attacking positions to support the likes of Riyad Mahrez and Marc Albrighton. He has also taken on the mantel of deep lying playmaker, with his wide range of passing allowing him to set up Foxes attacks, another trait of Makelele in his time in England.
The stats only further support the influence that Kante has had on this Leicester side. Only Aston Villa’s Idrissa Gueye has made more interceptions in the Premier League than the Frenchman, and given his side’s struggles in the league, you would expect him to have more defensive work to do.
Ranieri also deserves a lot of credit for Kante’s success this season, having stuck with him over Switzerland captain Gokhan Inler. When the Foxes were struggling at the back in the first half of the season it would have been easy for the self proclaimed Tinkerman to leave out Kante, who had only previously spent one season playing top division football in any country.
Kante will now be looking to lead his side to the Premier League title, just as Claude Makelele did at Chelsea in 2005 and 2006. Although it seems unlikely that we’ll start calling it the “Kante role” any time soon, he seems to have perfectly mastered the “Makelele role”.