James Lawton: Honour of playing for France does not mean Makelele can be treated like a slave

Joe Jordan cited Makelele as one of a generation which had grown up only to take
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When Jose Mourinho describes Claude Makelele as a "slave" in the dispute with the French Football Federation he will no doubt inspire disbelief in the Average Joe - and, in professional terms, a distinctly superior one in Jordan of Scotland, who at the age of 31 beat serious injury to complete an extraordinary record of scoring in each of three World Cup final tournaments.

Jordan, as conspicuously dedicated to Scotland's cause as he was to the great clubs Leeds United, Manchester United and Milan, was not one of the French midfielder's warmest admirers even before the latest controversy over his reluctance to play for his country. Indeed, in his autobiography published two years ago, Jordan cited Makelele as a striking example of the football generation which had grown up only to take.

Wrote Big Joe, "When I think of the dedication of players like Liam Brady and Graeme Souness when they went to play in Italy, in puts into perspective for me the attitude of some modern players who appear to take all they receive for granted.

"Claude Makelele, who doubled his salary when he moved from Real Madrid to Chelsea, complained about living in London, because of the bad weather, unfamiliar food and difficult traffic. But there is a requirement for every professional to get on with his job. He had accepted his terms, so he had to play.

"I imagine, even now, the Italian players arriving in the Premiership are stunned by both the drop in their responsibilities and the huge leap in the time they get to themselves."

It is easy to understand the fury that comes to the heart of a Joe Jordan when he reads that Makelele, strong in body and still one of the most tactically acute defensive midfielders in the world at the age of 33, has had his fill of the international arena. When Jordan was a boy in his Lanarkshire village he would see the great Jimmy Delaney of Celtic and Manchester United, who scored the only goal against England in a Victory International at Hampden Park in 1946 in front of 139,468 spectators, waiting at the bus stop on his way to the night shift at the steelworks. The glory was gone, but not before its time. But then if Big Joe, and all the other Joes, are appalled by this week's developments in the charmed life of one of today's better rewarded pros, it is maybe necessary to step back a stride and see life how it is and not how, romantically speaking, we would like it to be.

When you do that you have to say that Jose Mourinho is right. Makelele is freeborn. He is not a slave. If his heart doesn't still pump when they play the world's most stirring national anthem, if indeed he maybe dwells more on the sinister shadows that play just beyond the image of a united, multicultured French team, surely it is his right.

Chelsea pay his wages and it is, when you think about it, more than halfway through the first decade of the 21st century, utterly outrageous that Makelele is not allowed to make his own decisions about what demands he makes on his body in the final stages of a playing career in which he has always played with impressive application and outstanding effect.

Alan Shearer was allowed to retire from international football with due honour. So was Paul Scholes.

In the latter's case, particularly, there had to be regret that he may have been pushed to his decision by the inanities of Sven Goran Eriksson's regime. But for whatever reason, it is a man's right to direct the course of his own life.

Mourinho has his own priorities, as do Sir Alex Ferguson and Arsène Wenger and Rafa Benitez when they fall into dispute with national coaches. But when France's Raymond Domenech summons Makelele so imperiously, after threatening to push for him to be banned from two Chelsea matches for every one he misses that involves France, he is behaving in a way which would be dismissed and censured in any court outside of football.

No doubt because of all their privileges, and frequent failures of commitment, we forget sometimes that professional footballers are where they are not because they happened to buy winning Lottery tickets but because they survived an exhaustively tough process of selection.

They have proved their skills and their competitive value. In fact, Makelele happens to be a good example of a player who for many years had reason to be resentful of football's value system. A vital factor in the days of Real Madrid's success, the core of their midfield with his ability to read the game and win the ball, he was dismissed when he petitioned the rulers of Real for a greater share of the galactico pie. He received the message that awaited Patrick Vieira at the Bernabeu some years later. Yes, Makelele had his value, but he shouldn't dream of receiving anything like the rewards of a David Beckham, who sold so many shirts across the globe.

It was then that Makelele moved to London to moan about the weather. But then he didn't stop playing, he didn't forget that he had to earn his dramatically improved wages.

Would Claude Makelele be more admirable if he saw the continued opportunity to play for France as a chance to celebrate his good luck in a brilliantly rewarded career? Does he represent a loss of something in the spirit of the game, maybe the passion that drove, in their different times, young working-class lads like Jimmy Delaney and Joe Jordan to the peaks of their ambition? The answers are yes, certainly, and, yes, maybe.

But neither response invalidates the declaration of Mourinho. It is more than 200 years since the Bastille was stormed. Time enough, then, for Claude Makelele to enjoy some of the benefits.

Hussain vindicated in peering through ICC smokescreen over Hair

Please forgive some considerable satisfaction that the argument, supported here from around mid-afternoon last Friday, that the International Cricket Council was erecting a giant smokescreen around its failure to get to the truth of the Oval Test match scandal is being led by no one less than former England captain Nasser Hussain.

Later revelations suggest that Darrell Hair, who has so quickly changed from being one of cricket's most respected, if least loved, officials into the game's ultimate pariah - despite a trend of desperate cheating, chicanery and in some cases outright criminality - did not conceive of the possibility of a retirement pay-out entirely unilaterally. Naturally this has given some pause for thought.

What certainly isn't a surprise is that Hussain, who argued in the Daily Mail that Hair has been cynically hung out to dry and that the chances of properly apportioning blame for the Oval fiasco are now next to nil, is sceptical of the ICC.

He had to endure the nightmare of the ruling body's cynical desire for his team to provide succour to the loathsome regime of Robert Mugabe at the time of Zimbabwe's ill-starred role as a joint-host of the 2003 World Cup. It is no feat of memory to recall the anger of Hussain when he spoke of the lack of leadership and advice coming from both the England and Wales Cricket Board and the ICC. Now, to his great credit, he has taken the trouble - and shown the courage - to invite all those who care for cricket to look beyond the quick-fix solution of branding a man whose honesty, if not his diplomacy, had never been questioned before.

The truth can be elusive but it has a habit of getting out sooner or later. In the past few days no one has encouraged the process more impressively than Nasser Hussain.

Holy terror at large in Scotland

Jack McConnell, the First Minister of Scotland, sounded quite stressed yesterday when he denied that Celtic's Polish goalkeeper Artur Boruc had been cautioned by police for crossing himself. Apparently, it was for other acts which, as far as one can gather, involved nothing more sinister than some mild body language suggesting his despair of the moral and mental equilibrium of the Rangers' fans baying at his neck.

Can you imagine that, in anything resembling a sane and civilised society, a second of police time - and a penny of public money - would be wasted on such a matter? Maybe only if you heard about the actor Mel Smith being told that he couldn't smoke a cigar in Edinburgh, even when he was portraying Winston Churchill, who said that freedom would be fought for on the beaches and in the hills. He didn't mention the Lowlands of Scotland, but then if he was alive today perhaps he would.

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