It was clear from pretty early on this season that Jose Mourinho had decided Ashley Cole’s time at Chelsea was up, but is this a major oversight?
According to the Daily Star, Liverpool, Barcelona and AC Milan are all interested in signing the former Arsenal youth graduate and are preparing contract offers for next season. Chelsea’s manager opted for Spanish right-back Cesar Azpilicueta over Cole for most of last season and so long without playing regularly also put paid to his international career.
Roy Hodgson decided to take Leighton Baines and Luke Shaw as his left-backs over the 33-year-old to the World Cup in Brazil, which prompted Cole to decide it was time to end his international career.
The report claims Barcelona and AC Milan have already contacted his advisors to begin negotiations over a possible free transfer when the summer transfer window opens in July, while Liverpool boss Brendan Rodgers has taken an interest in Cole’s situation.
European giants are queuing up
When clubs the calibre of AC Milan, Barcelona and Liverpool start getting involved over a possible signing, you know you are dealing with a quality player and indicate Mourinho’s decision to let him leave Chelsea may well have been premature.
Mourinho is not the only one making a mistake over him either, as England’s first game in Brazil highlighted just how good Cole has been at his job down the years. Italy won 2-1 in Manaus and both goals originated from the Azzurri breaking down their right to exploit Baines’ defensive shortcomings, that he was not covered very well by Wayne Rooney and then Danny Welbeck didn’t help matters but there is no denying he had a torrid time.
Upon watching the Everton man struggle, thoughts went back to how Cole had for years made the England and Chelsea left hand side a place opponents would have little luck in attacking, often with similar cover to Baines.
You can understand Hodgson’s thinking about wanting to give the new generation a chance to step up in Brazil, but can you see him dropping Baines for Shaw after the older man’s horror-show against Antonio Candreva? Not likely, he is far too inexperienced and throwing him in with the spotlight on would almost be cruel.
Having Cole there would at least given Hodgson the option of having an experienced campaigner ready to perform; not only that, Cole has probably been England’s most consistent performer in the time he has played for the senior team.
Everyone loses out
This ability to step in an do a top-class job is also a reason why Mourinho’s decision to let him go upon the expiration of his contract may also be a mistake. Last season he was forced to call upon Cole for the matches against Liverpool at Anfield and Atletico Madrid at the Vicente Calderon.
Cole was outstanding in both matches, a 2-0 victory against Liverpool that was crucial in the Premier League title race and a goalless draw at Atletico, which were probably Chelsea’s best defensive displays of the season.
He may be coming near the end of his career and will be on a large wage packet, but he can still hold his own with the best full-backs in the world and it is a tragic waste by both Mourinho and Hodgson not to use him for a little while longer to get every last ounce of quality out of one of England’s best ever players – an unwise decision that is only a loss for all involved.