Joe Cole has played with some of the greatest players football has ever seen.
The midfielder started his career at West Ham before enjoying a successful seven seasons at Chelsea. He also played for Liverpool, Lille, West Ham, Aston Villa, Coventry and Tampa Bay Rowdies during an impressive club career.
He also played 56 times for England, representing them – and scoring – in major tournaments.
He was one of the most naturally gifted players England have ever had. Cole’s incredible technical ability on the ball made up for the fact he was just 5 ft 7 in.
But who are the best players he’s played with during his 20-year career?
Well, FourFourTwo asked him to name the best XI of players he’s played with at club and national level and explain his picks.
Let’s check out his XI and his reasons for picking each player.
Joe Cole’s perfect XI
GK: David Seaman
Cole says: “I remember watching Euro 96 as a kid, and Seaman was a hero of mine. Getting to come through the ranks and actually play with him for England was an honour. He was a terrific goalkeeper: great in the air and an excellent shot-stopper. A national treasure.”
Interestingly, Cole has gone for Seaman over Petr Cech – who he played with on 166 occasions at Chelsea and won multiple trophies with. A big surprise.
RB: Paulo Ferreira
Cole says: “Paulo is one of the most underrated players in Chelsea history – he was so secure in and out of possession. He never gave a pass away and could get stuck in as well. He had lovely hair, too – he looked like a movie star! He still does, come to think of it…”
Not too many surprises here as Ferreira was a brilliant right-back at Chelsea for many years. He got the nod ahead of the likes of Glen Johnson and Gary Neville.
CB: Rio Ferdinand
Cole says: “On the right I’d have Rio. He and John Terry were extraordinary for England – defensively, Rio was top notch. He was elegant and calm with a ball at his feet, and had bags of pace. He was impossible to get past.”
Cole played with Ferdinand at both West Ham and England and his inclusion is very understandable.
CB: John Terry
Cole says: “JT obviously gets in my team. The man was a leader, simple as that – dominant in the air and good with the ball. He was an old-school centre-half out of possession, but he could build play from the back as well as anyone.”
Terry captained Cole at both Chelsea and the national side so was another obvious pick.
Centre backs that missed out included the likes of Ricardo Carvalho, Jamie Carragher and Sol Campbell.
LB: Ashley Cole
Cole says: “I played against Ashley so many times before I joined Chelsea and you’d never get any change out of him. Playing with him was brilliant, as he was constantly making runs forward; I played on the left wing a lot and he’d give you the option to drive inside. One of the all-time great left-backs.”
Cole is one of the best left backs football has ever seen and Cole played alongside his namesake for many years at Chelsea and England.
CM: Claude Makelele
Cole says: “The governor. The main man. What a footballer. Makelele made that role in front of the back four his own. His short passing range rivalled the best players in the world – he’d always pick out a pass in space, even if it didn’t look like one was even on. And he did all of this with size six and a half feet. They were tiny!”
So good they named a position after him. Cole did also play with defensive midfielders Michael Essien and Michael Carrick but Makelele was something else.
CM: Frank Lampard
Cole says: “He guaranteed you goals and his longevity was incredible. Season after season, Frank did the business for club and country. To score so many goals from midfield is astonishing, and his Chelsea record may never be beaten.”
He was never going to leave out Lampard, was he? Cole played alongside Super Frank at West Ham, Chelsea and England appearing in 339 matches together in total.
CM: Steven Gerrard
Cole says: “Stevie was Roy of the Rovers, wasn’t he? He could do anything he wanted with a football and could play anywhere: full-back, midfield, upfront, probably even in goal! His tackling, passing, shooting and leadership skills were phenomenal. I think he’s the most complete player I ever played alongside.”
Cole’s third choice in central midfielder is Gerrard who he played with at Liverpool and England. Cole’s spell at Liverpool wasn’t particularly successful and was short-lived but he was still clearly impressed with Gerrard.
The likes of Michael Ballack and Paul Scholes miss out.
RW: Arjen Robben
Cole says: “Arjen didn’t exactly have the best barnet in the world, but he’s got Paulo behind him so I’ve balanced it out! There was no one better at cutting in off the right wing and shooting with his left foot. We didn’t see him for long enough in the Premier League, because the demands of English football weren’t suited to him. Chelsea played a 4-1-4-1 system under Jose Mourinho, meaning he had to work hard defensively. He runs Eden Hazard a very close second in terms of ability, though.”
Cole played with a number of talented wingers but it’s easy to forget Robben’s three-season spell at Chelsea where he six trophies before moving to Real Madrid.
CF: Didier Drogba
Cole says: “His hold-up play was just on another level – I saw him bully so many centre-halves. Didier [left] was a big-game player and nothing fazed him, but he saved that mentality for matchday. In training he was calm. He was a leader, and this team is full of them.”
Drogba is a Chelsea legend and it was almost impossible to leave the Ivorian out. However, in picking Drogba it means Cole has snubbed Wayne Rooney, Jermain Defoe, Nicolas Anelka, Hernan Crespo, Michael Owen, Andriy Shevchenko, Luis Suarez and Fernando Torres. That’s some list of strikers Cole has played with…
LW: Eden Hazard
Cole says: “I was at Lille with Eden – the most talented team-mate I ever had. He carried that side when he was only young, before moving to Chelsea and becoming the main man there too. It’s not worked out for him yet at Real Madrid, but he’s played over 700 games for club and country and in most of those people have kicked lumps out of him.”
As Cole mentioned, it was actually Lille – not Chelsea – where he played alongside Hazard. But those 39 matches together before Hazard’s move to Chelsea were enough to convince Cole that he was a special talent.
Manager: Jose Mourinho
Cole says: “Jose’s still a top boss and his record speaks for itself. I won four trophies with him at Chelsea. Don’t be surprised if he makes a big comeback at Roma and does something really special.”
The Special One…
A three-man substitute bench but still no room for Scholes or any other striker that Cole left out for Drogba.