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By ESPN Staff
Sep 4, 2006

Chelsea hope to resolve Makelele call-up row soon

LONDON, Sept 4 (Reuters) - Chelsea hope to resolve the row over midfielder Claude Makelele's international call-up with the French Football Federation following this week's Euro 2008 qualifying matches, the Premier League club said on Monday.

However, the English champions said in a statement on their Web site that 'ill-considered' comments from the French, especially defender Lilian Thuram and national team manager Raymond Domenech, are clouding the issue.

On Sunday, Thuram criticised Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho's use of the word slave to describe Makelele's situation after the midfielder was called up by Domenech for the qualifiers despite his stated intention to retire from international soccer.

Under FIFA rules, if Makelele had refused to play for France he could have been suspended from playing for Chelsea.

Mourinho likened 33-year-old Makelele's treatment to slavery, saying it was a denial of human rights.

Thuram responded at a news conference held at the squad's training ground in Clairefontaine on Sunday.

'He (Mourinho) didn't say it because he is stupid but merely because he doesn't know the meaning of this word,' said Thuram.

'This has nothing to do with soccer. Mourinho made his comments to be offensive. I really don't see how Claude's situation can be compared to that of a slave.'

STRONG BACKING

In Monday's statement Chelsea defended both their manager's right to stick up for Makelele and his comments on slavery.

'Jose Mourinho was correct in giving strong backing for our player, and he was fully supported by Chelsea FC on this.

'Thuram and Domenech appear not to appreciate a manager's support for his player.

'They also fail to understand Jose Mourinho's comments regarding 'slavery' which were purely a metaphor to illustrate the Makelele problem, a figure of speech rather than a literal comparison with slavery as a social and political issue.

'As a result of their failings, deliberately inflammatory comments will only cloud a problem which is on its way to being resolved.

'Claude, Chelsea Football Club and the French Football Federation hope to have a resolution after the current round of international matches.'

Makelele confirmed on Thursday that he had wanted to retire from international football after the World Cup but pledged to do his best for France if selected.

Domenech picked him for the 3-0 win in Georgia on Saturday but Makelele came off in the 58th minute with a sore ankle.

France's medical staff are assessing whether he will be fit to face Italy on Wednesday, a spokesman said on Sunday.