“He reads the game really well… a very smart guy” – Former Chelsea player on his favourite teammate in Blue

Michael Ballack was only at Chelsea for a few years but he made a major impact, playing in an immensely successful team and winning a hell of a lot of trophies.

While here he played with some of the greats, although in an interview today he made an interesting choice as one of the players he loved to play with in his career.

Rather than big names like Frank Lampard or Didier Drogba, Ballack plumped for the legendary “water carrier” Claude Makelele.

The Frenchman’s legend is well established in England now, but at the time he arrived it was as the unglamourous spare part of Real Madrid’s “Galatico” team, and there was hardly big excitement about his arrival compared to some of the other transfers we were making at the time.

“A guy who I played with was Makelele at Chelsea. A very smart guy with such great football intelligence. Funny guy, was a pleasure to play with him because it was easy to play with him,” Ballack said on the Football’s Greatest podcast.

“You expect good positioning, he reads the game really, really well. Unselfish player, he always saw the better opponent, and you could expect good balls and a simple game.

“I loved playing with Makelele because as I described – great player.”

How Mr Claude came to London

The story of how Makelele ended up at Chelsea is an interesting one. Of course we had just become a far richer club, able to pay his wages, but we weren’t established as European royalty just yet.

The reason we were able to sign a player direct from Real Madrid was that very same understatement and quiet efficiency that Ballack talks about. In a team surrounded by Zinedine Zidane, Luis Figo and David Beckham (just for starters) he was never going to stand out, and Chelsea took major advantage of that, snapping him up and using him to build their midfield around in that first generation of success.

If only we could find another Makelele out there now to repeat the trick with.

Chelsea News