One of the most talented players to be developed in this country over the past 15 years has finally ended the transfer riddle of the summer, by agreeing a four-year contract with Liverpool. The fans at Anfield will be buoyant over a signing who has that magical spark, the ability to create something out of nothing, with the only other England player capable of that genius ability being an Evertonian in Wayne Rooney. But the choice of Joe Cole’s move to Merseyside will leave people questioning the player’s ambition to join a team competing in next season’s Europa League. Why reject the opportunity to play in the Champions League?
After a torrid season last time around Liverpool went from one step forward to about five steps back, from runners-up in 08/09 to an appalling seventh place. Roy Hodgson, who did a remarkable job in his tenure at Fulham, has been given the task of resurrecting a ship which has been off target since the Premier League was constructed. On paper the signing of Joe Cole to replace Yossi Benayoun makes sense. Firstly he is English, which helps with the regulations in England and Europe with a minimum amount of National players needing to be in the squads. He is arguably more gifted than Benayoun and there is also the fact he is a marquee signing. Somebody who will ensure Hodgson has accumulated invaluable brownie points from the Kop.
Harry Redknapp, Cole’s former manager at West Ham, made it clear he was in for the player, and it would have been wise to presume he would reunite with his former manager at Tottenham Hotspurs – not only a team which will be competing in the Champions League this season, but one which would have meant Cole could stay in London. The likes of Arsenal, Manchester United and even AC Milan were all linked with him, so whatever happened it looked as if he was going to join a title contending team.
The move to Liverpool however still raises questions as to whether Cole is good enough to warrant a first team place, however. One of the reasons he left Chelsea was because of lack of first team action, yet looking at The Reds’ squad he will have just as much competition. He has continually stated his wish to play in his preferred role, in the ‘hole’, yet at Liverpool captain marvel Steven Gerrard automatically adopts this position. The wings seem the likely answer, yet on the left they have Ryan Babel, Milan Jovanavic and for now Albert Riera. You look to the right and there is Dirk Kuyt and Maxi Rodriguez. Decent options and bar Riera, players you would expect to stay at the club. If one was to guess then Jovanovic or even Kuyt might be told they will be first reserve to Fernando Torres in the forward department, a role they would see playing time in with the Spaniard so frequently in the treatment room.
Former manager Carlo Ancelotti said the reason for Cole’s departure was economical, and this leads to the interesting motive in his transfer. He wanted to be on par with the likes of John Terry and Frank Lampard recuperating over £100k for a weekly salary, yet Chelsea smartly looked at their financial situation and decided it needed trimming and wouldn’t budge on their offer of a small increase. Figures being thrown about have said the likes of Tottenham and Arsenal were asking Cole to stick to his current wages, but with the promise of first team action. Yet he has ended up at Liverpool on wages we understand in the figure of £90k a week and slight uncertainty as to his role.
Ashley Cole departed Arsenal in similar circumstances over contract issues, and look at the way he is ridiculed by opposition fans. Will Joe have the same kind of reception? It’s unlikely, as he comes across in a far more likeable manner than Ashley. Whether the transfer was simply for financial reasons we will not know, but for both Liverpool and even Cole, the move could be what both parties have been seeking. Cole is one of those players you just cannot hate, and England fans will be hoping he can rediscover form and fitness at Anfield so not only the country can reap the rewards at international level, but also to prove some doubters wrong that he has lived up to the high billing tagged on him as a teenager.