“Messi can do some amazing things, but anything he can do Joe can do as well, if not better. He used to shock us in training by doing footy tricks with a golf ball that most players can’t even do with a football. I really fancy Joe for the Player of the Year award this season.”
Steven Gerrard made this rash statement when Joe Cole joined Gerrard at Liverpool last summer.
Fast forward 8 months and it is noticeable that Joe Cole cannot do the amazing things Messi can and the shelf in his plush Merseyside home is covered in dust, not showcasing the Player of the Year award Gerrard predicted. In fact the Merseyside home could soon be for sale as it seems Cole is being politely ushered towards the Anfield exit door after an incredibly disappointing campaign.
Although looking silly now, Gerrard had good reason to eulogise about the ability Joe Cole has tucked away in his locker. Cole is a supremely talented footballer who possesses the skills I most admire in a footballer. He is a quick thinker, outrageously tricky and can turn a game with the flick of his boot. Yet despite his undeniable creative flair – rare in an English player – he has been criticised throughout his career by managers who consider him a tactical liability.
Cole insists his best position is in an attacking midfield role in behind the striker where he has the allowance to roam and influence the game more often than when out wide. Unfortunately for the 29 year old the Premier League is a different animal to that of 10 years ago when he first burst onto the scene. Luxury players are not in the league’s DNA anymore. This means Cole usually will not be found pulling the strings in behind the striker but slogging it out on the wing where his defensive frailties are all too evident.
Cole had too evolve his style of play to meet the league’s new demands and it seems he has failed to do so. When playing under the ‘Special One’, Mourinho claimed after one game that he needed 11 players for defensive organisation but with Cole they only had 10 players willing to defend. These flaws in Cole’s games highlight that he is truly a luxury player who Premier League top team managers, apart from Harry Redknapp apparently, feel they can’t afford to carry.
Cole is a player who seems to have spent a decade forgetting himself in an attempt to prove he is not the show boater of his youth. By doing so he has sanded away his own unique strengths which made him the golden boy. He is no longer the expressive, confident creative force he once was.
Thus since moving to Liverpool, Cole has failed to deliver. The first red card of his career on his debut against Arsenal set the tone for a campaign blighted by injury and a struggle to adapt to a left-midfield role under Roy Hodgson and then Kenny Dalglish. This forced Liverpool’s hand and by spending £20million on promising wide man Jordan Henderson it looks as though Joe may as well start packing his bags.
Harry Redknapp is once again linked with Cole. Although it must be noted that Redknapp is typically interested in signing anyone with two legs so I don’t know whether to read too much in to this. Spurs could be a fantastic move for Cole though as Redknapp could take under his wing a player that flourished during his spell at West Ham when he was touted as the next Gazza. This is what Cole needs. A manager to make allowances for what he can’t do as they cherish what he can do.
Any move for Cole by Spurs may hinge on the future of the brilliant Luka Modric who is consistently linked with Man United. If that fails to materialise and Spurs lose interest, Cole would be advised to try his luck abroad where his style of play may be more suited.
Whatever happens during the summer, next season could well be make or break for the former England international. It is time Joe Cole lived up to the extraordinary hype that was created after he scored 7 of England’s 8 goals against Spain in a youth international. And with his 30th birthday fast approaching, the clock is ticking…