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Claude Makelele: DR Congo job appeals to former Chelsea midfielder

By Oluwashina Okeleji Sports Writer

The 49-year-old hopes to become the Leopards’ third manager in three years by replacing experienced Argentine coach Hector Cuper, who was sacked last month.

“We have a lot of talented players at the top level and the chance to manage this great country will obviously be the biggest of my coaching career,” said Makelele, who was born in Kinshasa but played international football for France.

“I have already said that the job does appeal to me and I am more than interested in it.

“To be in charge of the Leopards is an exciting job for whoever gets it and most especially the challenge ahead [of reaching the Nations Cup], but we have to wait and see.”

DR Congo missed out on a place at the 2021 Africa Cup of Nations held earlier this year in Cameroon, and were then beaten in Africa’s 2022 World Cup play-offs by Morocco in March.

Makelele has previously had managerial spells at Bastia and Belgian club Eupen, but is now back at Chelsea working as a youth coach and technical mentor at Stamford Bridge.

Revered son

Makelele, the son of former international Andre-Joseph, was born in DR Congo’s capital before leaving the Central African nation at the age of four in 1977 to be with his father in Europe.

He is still highly regarded in the country of his birth and had previously confirmed his desire to help get the Leopards back on track two weeks ago.

“Speaking personally, I feel ready to manage the DR Congo national team,” he told French station Canal Plus.

“We all need to sit down together in order to restructure football in the Democratic Republic of Congo.”

Capped 71 times by France, Makelele won league titles in three different countries as a player and was on losing side in the 2006 World Cup final against Italy.

He made over 800 appearances during his domestic career, winning 15 trophies including two Premier League titles with Chelsea and the Champions League with Real Madrid in 2002.

After retiring in 2011, Makelele was appointed as a coach with his last club Paris St-Germain under manager Carlo Ancelotti.

He spent just under six months in charge of Bastia in 2014 and then took up a technical director role with Monaco.

Makelele also coached at Swansea City before spending 18 months with Eupen, and he re-joined Chelsea in August 2019.

Struggling Leopards

DR Congo ahead of their 2022 World Cup play-off against Morocco
DR Congo have ground to make up in qualifying for the 2023 Africa Cup of Nations

Two-time African champions DR Congo made some progress under former coach Florent Ibenge, who took charge in August 2014 and led the Leopards to three consecutive Africa Cup of Nations tournaments.

Under his watch they finished in third place in 2015, reached the quarter-finals two years later and in 2019 they narrowly lost in the last 16 in Egypt.

But his successor, Christian Nsengi-Biembe, missed out on a place at this year’s finals in Cameroon before he was replaced by Cuper in May last year.

Cuper guided the side to the top of their World Cup qualifying group, but they failed to reach Qatar after a 5-2 defeat on aggregate by Morocco.

The Leopards lost their opening two qualifiers for the 2023 Nations Cup – with a 1-0 loss against visitors Gabon followed by a 2-1 defeat by Sudan in Omdurman – ultimately leading to Cuper’s dismissal.

The side therefore face a challenge to reach the finals in Ivory Coast next year, with the next two rounds of qualifying scheduled for September.

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