After a dozen years in the Premier League, with three League titles, seven FA Cup winners' medals and 98 England caps to his name, Ashley Cole's excellence is beyond argument.

Widely regarded as one of the best, most consistent left-backs in the world for the past decade, it should come as no surprise that the 31-year-old is pushing for a bumper new £200,000-a-week contract, to extend his stay at Stamford Bridge beyond 2013.

A natural-born winner, one of the fabled 'Invincibles' at Arsenal, and now a champion of Europe with the Blues, Cole is as competitive as they come, making light of a persistent ankle problem that restricts training in the 48 hours after matches.

 

He delivers consistently fine performances, eight out of 10 minimum in the ratings, game after game, year after year, always producing in the biggest games and against the toughest opponents.

Of Cole's 98 international appearances, England have won 60, drawn 24 and lost just 14. Injury-permitting, his century is set to come in a World Cup qualifier in Moldova on September 7, where he will join a select group of players with 100 caps to their names. An achievement that his talent duly deserves, and reward for playing consistently at such a high level throughout his career.

It says everything about the inflated celebrity status of footballers that Cole's popularity relates almost exclusively to perceptions of him as a person rather than a player. His occasional off-field escapades make him slightly unlovable, but on the pitch he is a national treasure.

 

 

With speculation mounting that negotiations at Chelsea have stalled, Cole took to Twitter to deny reports he is considering a shock move to big-spending Paris Saint Germain, to rejoin old boss Carlo Ancelotti in the French capital, and reaffirmed his commitment to the west London club.

"Contract talks have not stalled just started, and 200k are you for real, I'd never ask for that," he said. "Until Chelsea don't want me I'm #cfc4life".

Given Cole's reputation amongst some fans, such speculation may not go away until he finally puts pen to paper on a new deal. Past comments, including the admission that he "nearly swerved off the road" when learning Arsenal were offering the then 25-year-old, only £55,000 a week, only further alienated him.

But, in an era where the Premier League's top earners like Manchester United striker Wayne Rooney are paid around £250,000-a-week, and Manchester City reward a number of their leading stars - Carlos Tevez, Sergio Aguero and Yaya Toure - with salaries upwards of £7million per year, Cole is within his rights to demand a pay-rise.

At the very least, the England international deserves parity with Chelsea's highest paid stars like Fernando Torres, Frank Lampard, and John Terry. Yes, there is an added premium for world-class attacking talent, the goal-getters and headline-makers, but Cole is unrivalled in his specialist position.

There are numerous modern full-backs who have pace, flamboyance and prowess, and many others who are solid, reliable customers whom wingers have a tough time getting past. Cole, though, is one of very few in the modern game capable of combining both attacking and defensive duties.

At 31, he still has a few years left as a top-level defender, and will be the perfect mentor for the emerging talent, Ryan Bertrand, tipped as the long-term left-back successor at Stamford Bridge. Chelsea should pay Cole whatever he wants to see out his career in west London. He is worth every penny.

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