For just over the last decade, England have been blessed to have one player who could legitimately said to belong in a world's best eleven. This player is not Wayne Rooney or Steven Gerrard or David Beckham or John Terry or Rio Ferdinand. As good as these players are/were, you wouldn't select them in the world's best team. No, this player is left-back Ashley Cole.
Cole is England's fifth most capped player, and most capped full-back, of all time. He has lined up for his nation 106 times. At club level, he has won everything it is possible to win, bar the pointless World Club Cup.
This success is of course no accident. Ever reliable in defence and a constant attacking threat on the overlap, the only footballing talent Cole lacks is the ability to score goals. In an England shirt he has been a rare and consistent bright light.
With a track record like this it has been long assumed that Cole's name in the England squad bound for Brazil was chiselled in stone. But, with the World Cup now six months away, Cole's place no longer looks guaranteed.
Instead of playing week in week out for Chelsea, Cole has been replaced at left-back by the natural right-sided defender Cesar Azpilicueta.
Injury to right-back Branislav Ivanovic should give Cole some game time over the coming weeks, but it is far from guaranteed that the Englishman will keep his position long term.
Although still a good player time seems to be catching up with Cole. He seems to have lost a quarter yard of pace, but more importantly his hunger to play no longer seems to be all consuming. Cole seems to have accepted his place on the bench.
Had this happened a few years ago before Euro 2012 then this likely would not have mattered. Such was Cole's reputation and England's lack of options at left-back that he would have been selected anyway.
Now though, things aren't so certain. Cole is 33, the 2014 World Cup will almost certainly be his last major tournament, and England now have a multitude of left-backs to choose from.
Leighton Baines is an attacking dynamo for Everton. Luke Shaw looks like Ashley Cole as a youngster. Danny Rose is impressing at Tottenham. Kieran Gibbs is first choice for the league leaders.
England have no shortage of options. In fact there is an embarrassment of English riches now playing high level football regularly at left-back.
Given Ashley Cole's age and lack of starting place at Chelsea, perhaps it is time to look to the future, and give someone else a chance to get experience at the World Cup.
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