Domenech says dispute over Makelele is 'closed'

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The Independent Football

Raymond Domenech, the France coach, intends to ignore his Chelsea counterpart Jose Mourinho and continue selecting the midfielder Claude Makelele. "Chelsea's interests are not my concern," Domenech said yesterday. "The debate is closed as far as I am concerned."

After the World Cup final in the summer, Makelele said he no longer wished to play for France, and repeated that just over a week ago in Chelsea's match-day programme notes.

But Domenech has insisted that Makelele make himself available, prompting a furious response from Mourinho.

"Makelele has not retired. He plays for a club, and he has a soccer player's licence," Domenech said at France's training camp. "As long as he is performing, he will play. I have the right to pick him, and I will do so as long as I consider it necessary."

Under the laws of football's world governing body Fifa, Makelele could be suspended from playing for Chelsea if he turns down the national team. "Claude is here. He is part of the French team," Domenech said. "He is here. He has to come. His club does not want him to. I want him to. The law is on my side."

By refusing an international call-up, Makelele would therefore be ineligible for club football for the equivalent period he would have been with the national team - meaning he would then miss as many as two games each time.

An angry Mourinho, speaking after Chelsea had beaten Blackburn on Sunday, had declared that Makelele was being treated like "a slave" by Domenech.

"The enormity of his [Mourinho's] words makes them laughable," Domenech retorted. "He [Makelele] is stuck in the middle. He is suffering from both sides. I have the whip in my hand and Chelsea has other arguments."