Geremi Sorele Fotso Njitap has won practically all there is for a footballer to win. The most successful player in the national squad alongside Samuel Eto’o, and indeed the second most decorated African player behind the Inter Milan striker, he has won two Africa Cup of Nations (in 2000 and 2002), Olympic gold in 2000, the UEFA Champions League in 2002 with Real Madrid, two English titles with Chelsea in 2005 and 2006, a Spanish title in 2001 with Real Madrid, and the English FA and League Cups in 2007 with Chelsea.
This impressive journey began with Racing FC Bassoufam, his modest home-town club in Cameroon. He had already made a name for himself by the age of 16 when he surprisingly signed for the Paraguayan team Cerro Porteno for an unsuccessful seven month spell.
Despite this setback, clubs in Europe were keen to sign a versatile young player who was comfortable playing on the right of midfield, in the heart of the defence or at right-back. An ongoing love affair with Turkey began when he signed for the Ankara-based club Genclerbirligi, where, despite his tender age, he adapted without any problems and played more than 50 matches in two seasons, drawing admiring glances from more prestigious clubs.
He was not short of offers when he left the Turkcell Super Lig for Spain’s La Liga and Real Madrid in 1999. Many were quick to predict he would be a flop, but in a squad full of star players he played his part in Vicente Del Bosque’s finest moments as manger, before joining Middlesbrough in England in a bid for regular first-team football.
His power and combative style were perfectly suited to the English style of football, and he became a linchpin at Middlesbrough. He even showed a talent for taking free kicks, and scored seven goals in 34 games before moving to Chelsea at the start of the Abramovich era. Four seasons at the very top of the English game were followed by three disappointing years at Newcastle which culminated in their relegation to the second tier of English football. He returned to Turkey last January to join Ankargucu but has struggled to establish himself there.
Nicknamed Amanakoi, Geremi was part of the golden generation that included Rigobert Song, Pierre Wome, Raymond Kalla, Lauren Etame and, of course, the much-missed Marc-Vivien Foe. He made his 100th appearance for the national team in February 2009 in a 3-1 victory over Guinea, a game which he marked with a goal, from a free kick, naturally.