William Gallas believes Claude Makelele's knowledge will benefit Swansea City
22nd February 2017
"When you had Claude Makelele in front of you, then you played with a cigar in your mouth."
Former France international and Premier League star William Gallas is describing how his playing days went a little smoother thanks to his former team-mate at domestic and international level.
Gallas was at the Swans' training complex in Fairwood this week to interview Makelele on behalf of a French television broadcaster.
With the Swans heading to Chelsea - a former club of both Gallas and Makelele - on Saturday it was the ideal opportunity for the former defender-turned-pundit to catch up with his old team-mate.
At Chelsea, Makelele won two Premier League titles and lifted the League Cup (twice) and FA Cup.
Makelele is now working under Paul Clement, who spent two stints as part of the backroom staff at Stamford Bridge, after he offered his services to the Swans head coach shortly after his appointment last month.
And Gallas can see the words of wisdom he was given by Makelele during his playing days are now being taken on board by Gylfi Sigurdsson and co.
"As a defender, it was great to play with Claude as he was so clever," said Gallas, who won the Premier League and League Cup during his five years at Chelsea.
"He had experience of playing for Real Madrid and won the Champions League there.
"When he arrived at Chelsea I learned a lot from him. He spoke to me on and off the pitch, telling me what to do to help the team.
"He made my job easier. When you had Claude Makelele in front of you, then you played with a cigar in your mouth. That's how it felt.
"Now the players at Swansea are benefiting from the same advice and knowledge that Claude was giving me.
"He knows football very well, and when you have a coach that can explain everything then he makes your job easier."
Since Clement's appointment, the Swans have risen from bottom of the table to four points clear of the relegation zone thanks to victories at Crystal Palace and Liverpool along with home wins over Southampton and defending Premier League champions Leicester City.
Gallas, a World Cup runner-up in 2006 and the holder of 84 international caps, feels the positive effect both Clement and Makelele have made since arriving in SA1 is clear to see.
"Swansea have improved a lot in the last month or so," said Gallas, who played for Arsenal and Tottenham as well as Chelsea in the Premier League.
"I've not been surprised by Swansea's improvement because I know Claude and what he wants from the players. He will demand their maximum effort in training every day.
"I was a little surprised when he went into management with Bastia in France. But I watched their games and quite quickly I realised he would be an excellent coach.
"He is a warrior and he wants to win games. To do that, you have to work hard in training and that is what is happening at Swansea.
"I've spoken to Paul a little bit too, and I am sure he can bring a winning mentality to Swansea.
"I know before Paul arrived at Swansea it was a little difficult for the team. Now he is here, Paul has given the players confidence again and that makes it easier to get his message across.
"It seems that the players recognised Paul as the right man straight away, and that is very important."
For Makelele and Clement, Saturday's trip to Stamford Bridge will have extra emotion attached to it given their fine service to the Blues.
The pair, though, will be focussed on continuing the Swans' promising run of form which helped Clement win January's Manager of the Month award.
And Gallas believes the victory over Liverpool last month gives the Swans hope of upsetting the current league leaders.
"When you play the big teams you must work very hard," he said. "It will be tough on Saturday for Swansea because they face a team that is top of the league, has lots of confidence and is playing good football.
"To beat Liverpool at Anfield is not easy - I know that - so the players know what they have to do. If they do that, then you never know."
Regardless of this weekend's outcome between the Swans and his former club, the 39-year-old predicts a positive finish to the campaign for Clement and co.
"Swansea's target is to stay in the Premier League, and with the players they have got then I believe they will do that," he added.
"After speaking to some of the players here like Gylfi (Sigurdsson) and Kyle (Naughton), I could tell they have the belief Swansea will stay up.
"The atmosphere around the club is great, and that is important. When the atmosphere between the players is very good then you will see that transfer onto the pitch - they will fight for each other."
See our interview with Claude Makelele on Thursday as he speaks about his role at Swansea City and his return to Chelsea this weekend.