Ashley Cole was the world’s best left-back in his prime.
Of all the world-class players that England had at their fingertips during the heralded ‘Golden Generation’, Cole was arguably the only one who consistently stood head and shoulders above his peers in the same position.
By the time that Roberto Carlos was winding down his career and Cole was coming into his own at Chelsea, there was seldom a winger or forward who could even dream of getting past him.
The magnificence of Cole
It is, after all, football’s worst-kept secret that Cristiano Ronaldo considers the former Arsenal ‘Invincibles’ member to bet his toughest ever opponent and you can see why from their various clashes together.
Whether it was their furious battles in the Premier League or Cole’s masterclass at Euro 2004, the one-on-one wars between the two players highlighted exactly why they have so much respect for one another.
And the feeling remains mutual all these years later with Cole tipping his hat to Ronaldo when he was asked to build ‘My Perfect Player’ during a fascinating interview with Goal back in 2020.
When Cole built his perfect player
The Manchester United star was given the nod as Cole worked his way through eight key categories: right foot, left foot, speed, stamina, strength, heading, skills and footballing brain.
Asking one of the greatest defenders of the modern era to talk about their finest ever opponents and teammates is interesting enough, but it was even more fascinating to note that Lionel Messi didn’t make the cut.
The Paris Saint-Germain hero was name-dropped on several occasions and don’t think for a second that Cole doesn’t respect him – quite the opposite – but it was nevertheless intriguing to see other top-class stars getting called up ahead of him.
Cole’s fascinating choices
But don’t let us tease you any longer because Cole’s breakdown of so many legendary players is absolute class even if you’ve watched it once before, so be sure to check out the full video and his picks down below:
Right foot: Cristiano Ronaldo
Left foot: Arjen Robben
Speed: Ludovic Giuly
Strength: Michael Essien
Heading: John Terry
Footballing brain: Andres Iniesta
Robben gets the nod over Messi
Now, we’re not one to tell Cole who to choose considering he’s literally been at ground zero and played against these superstars one on one, but surely Messi had to get the nod over Robben, right?
Then again, if there is one area in which you can praise Robben until you’re blue in the face, then you can bet your bottom dollar that it’s his infinitely lethal left foot that gave defenders nightmares for years.
It really is astonishing to hear straight from the mouth of an iconic defender like Cole that Robben was so predictable, but yet so unstoppable in just the way it came across on our television screens.
Marry that to the potentially surprising selection of Giuly for pace and Essien for his frankly scary-sounding levels of brawn to merely scratch the surface on what remains such a fascinating chat.
I’m not sure me picking between Dave from Boston Saints and Cyril from Hykeham Tigers’ left feet on a cold, windy Saturday morning in west Lincolnshire would be quite as gripping…