After another starring role on Europe’s grandest club stage, Lille’s on-loan Liverpool attacker Joe Cole is again dominating the headlines.
In partnership with the in-demand Eden Hazard, Cole has tortured Ligue 1 and Champions League defences this season, finding the net three times in 16 appearances, with another two assists to his credit. Cole’s efforts have pushed Lille to within touching distance of the next stage of the Champions League and third place in Ligue 1, five points behind surprise package Montpellier and petrodollar-fuelled Paris Saint-Germain, the division’s joint leaders. The form of the former West Ham and Chelsea player has also bolstered his individual hopes, with Lille considering a permanent move for the Anfield outcast and a return to the international set-up under Fabio Capello a distinct possibility.
Cole’s future may be tied to that of Hazard. Lille President Michel Seydoux said in the aftermath of the club’s Russia triumph: “It is not a certainty that [Cole] will leave us at the end his contract. If he has a certain good feeling with Lille and we can make him an interesting offer. This is something that we will look into.” In the same interview with RTL, a French-language radio station, Seydoux added: “If we don’t do well it’s probable that [Hazard] will leave the club after this season as there’s plenty of interest. Will 50million euros be enough? Nobody is irreplaceable and there are solutions for that kind of money.” If Hazard is tempted away by one of his multitudinous suitors, Cole could be one of Seydoux’s affordable solutions and, has indicated, he would be willing to stay in France long-term.
It was reported earlier this month that England Head Coach Capello had spoken with Damien Comolli, Liverpool’s sporting director, about the form of the effervescent Cole. With Wayne Rooney suspended for England’s Euro 2012 group games, pending appeal, the Three Lions are sorely lacking in the kind of fantasy that Cole and precious few other England players can offer. Rooney’s frequent position for England, off the striker and more as an attacking midfielder than an out-and-out forward, has long been touted as Cole’s most beneficial slot as well, despite his strong showings for Lille coming as a wide player in an attacking three. That, however, is also the way in which Capello’s England have usually looked at their most fluid.
Ashley Young, Theo Walcott, Stewart Downing and James Milner appear certainties for the travelling party next summer, but Cole’s ability to play either the Rooney role or a wide berth could put him back in contention. Without an England appearance since 2010, Cole could be on the verge of a return to the national scene, as well as the next stage of the Champions League and a permanent extension to his revitalising French sojourn.
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