CHELSEA are in line to buy Real Madrid’s £8million-rated Cameroon star Geremi soon, even though boss Claudio Ranieri had three offers for the 23-year-old powerhouse turned down last July.
But sources in the Bernabeu last night confirmed Real’s twin operation to buy Arsenal’s Patrick Vieira and ACMilan’s Andriy Shevchenko has changed perspectives.
Ranieri is preparing to take advantage even though Madrid managing director Jorge Valdano would not budge from his asking price last season.
But Geremi’s decreasing presence in the team and Madrid’s need to raise about £65m if they are to get their main targets means there is potentially a bargain.
Ranieri has never lost his appreciation of the athletic, agile defender w hose rampaging runs down the right have helped Cameroon win the Under-20 World Championship, the A frican Nations Cup and the Olympics.
Indeed it was Geremi’s long-range goal in Munich during the Champions League quarter-final second leg which set Madrid up for their subsequent elimination of the European Cup holders.
Now, Real are of a mind to cash in on the player because their much-heralded youth system has turned up Oscar Minambres, a 19-year-old who is now preferred by coach Vicente del Bosque as understudy to Michel Salgado.
Ranieri, whose desire for pace and w idth in the Chelsea team has not been properly met by Mario Stanic, because of injury problems, Jesper Gronkjaer or Boudewijn Zenden, now faces the challenge of striking a deal before Geremi goes to the World Cup.
Cameroon are widely fancied to translate their great international form of the past two years into a strong show in Japan and Korea.
Should Geremi play his role in that, the Real price would inevitably go up and stranger things have happened than the Spaniards, in such a situation, changing their minds about his availability.
Geremi is already a major bonus for Real having cost just over £2m when John Toshack, then in charge at the Bernabeu, plucked him from little known Turkish side Genclerbirligi.
It’s a bonus for Chelsea that his contract is not extravagant, given that his wages in Turkey were poor.
He is understood to earn about £9,000 per week and would fit easily within the Stamford Bridge wage structure.
Indeed when asked last summer if he would approve of a move to London the African said: « I am not a regular at Madrid and Chelsea are more than a good team. »