Ranieri loan for Forssell as Makelele hopes rise

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The Chelsea manager, Claudio Ranieri, has sent his striker Mikael Forssell to Birmingham City on a four-month loan while the chances of Real Madrid's midfielder, Claude Makelele, moving to Stamford Bridge seemed to increase yesterday after the Spanish club made an offer for Valencia's Roberto Ayala.

Ranieri, who has sent another forward, Carlton Cole, on loan to Charlton Athletic, has an abundance of strikers after signing Hernan Crespo and Adrian Mutu following the takeover of the club by the Russian billionaire Roman Abramovich.

The influx of players has also forced the Chelsea winger Boudewijn Zenden to express an interest in joining Paris St-Germain. "It would be a great solution to come and help Paris," Zenden told the French newspaper, L'Equipe.

Ranieri believes Forssell, the promising Finland international striker, will be better served obtaining regular first-team experience with Birmingham, rather than remaining on the bench at Stamford Bridge.

Forssell has previously enjoyed successful loan spells at Crystal Palace and Borussia Mönchengladbach, where he recovered from a serious injury last season. The striker, who is a regular in his national side, had been hoping to secure a regular first-team place at Chelsea on his return to England. However, that was before Abramovich's arrival at the club and spending on transfers so far totalling £94.6m.

Ranieri believes that Forssell, just like Cole, has real promise and wants to keep him at the club. "It's good for him as he can play more often and also good for me as I can watch him very easily," he said.

Real Madrid's bid for Ayala has increased the chances of Makelele finally moving to Stamford Bridge. "We have received a formal offer [for Ayala] and as such we are going to look at it carefully," said the Valencia president, Jaime Orti, yesterday.

The deal may be conditional on the sale of Makelele to Chelsea so that the Spanish champions can raise enough funds to finance the purchase of the Argentinian international. Real have been scouring the market for a new centre-back following their decision to discard their club captain, Fernando Hierro, at the end of last season. A deal for the Argentinian defender Gabriel Milito fell through in July because of concerns over the player's fitness.

Real's commercial director, Emilio Butragueno, seemed to accept the possibility of Makelele moving yesterday, when he said in Monte Carlo: "We will miss Makelele if he leaves because he is a very good player, but I believe Real Madrid has the resources to fill any gap in the squad so I am not worried."

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