Chelsea's Joe Cole dilemma
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The midfield maestro is out of contract in the summer, raising the prospect of him leaving Stamford Bridge on a free transfer at the end of the season.
Cole, who is a massive hit with fans, is reported to be demanding wages in excess of £120,000-a-week. His current contract on £80,000-a-week runs out at the end of the season and Chelsea seem to be no mood to be held ransom—something teammate Frank Lampard has gotten away with in the past.
Cole has repeatedly stated his desire to end his career at the club he supported as a boy, but, at present, is unwilling to lower his demands. He is, according to reports, seeking a 50 percent rise on his current wages to put him in the same bracket along with Nicolas Anelka and Michael Essien, who are both earning £120,000-a-week.
Chelsea are prepared to meet him halfway and have placed a £100,000-a-week offer on the table. Cole refuses to accept this.
The 28-year-old’s situation has not been helped by his lack of appearances in the past year as a result of a cruciate knee ligament injury. Having just returned, he is still searching for that match sharpness, which can only come about through a consistent run of games.
However, Chelsea insist that Cole must first prove his worth after a nine month layoff with a knee injury before any sanctioning any substantial pay rises and rightly so.
As good as both Terry and Lampard are and have been, I was never particularly keen on upping their wages to the extent that they did and always thought they were providing a stick for the agents of the players with forthcoming deals to beat the club with.
The fact is that Chelsea's wage bill, the largest in the Premier League, is far too high and as a club they have to draw a line in the sand somewhere and stick to it, possibly starting now with Cole.
Cole still has a lot to offer and there have been signs over the last couple of games that he is beginning to find his true form once again. I would be surprised if the club don't reach a compromise with Cole and his advisers particularly as Cole on a long term contract would probably be an attractive proposition to many of the club's rivals in the transfer market.
There are some players who become so much a part of the average fan's psyche that to criticise them becomes almost an act of heresy. Such a player is Joe Cole. He is extravagantly talented and has a well documented past of having supported Chelsea from The Shed.
It is true that football is emotional but it's necessary to take an unemotional view of what it is, an emotionless business. It is sad for someone who has blue blood in his veins but with youngsters knocking at the door and with the likes of Pato plainly on the mind of Ancelotti, a player who is difficult to place in the team and has had a year-long injury will be both hard to select and to whom to give 50 percent pay rise.
Joe Cole of 2010 is sadly not the Joe Cole of 2007. The Cole that came from West Ham in 2004 had flair and a happy-go-lucky approach to football. However, he had the misfortune to run into Jose Mourinho who is repelled by such players as he is into 'graft and defence first and foremost.
The old Joe Cole vanished.
If he were to go I would expect emotional scenes from him and the fans but what do we expect our club to do? We need top performers and the perception might be among the hierarchy that this no longer describes Cole. It happens to us all no matter what walk-of-life might be
Cole’s advisers are attempting to use his wide appeal to their advantage as losing him to a main rival without receiving a fee would be a bitter blow for Chelsea, while the impending transfer embargo should strengthen his negotiating position.
Cole is hoping Chelsea will back down as they did with Lampard, although they are operating in a different financial landscape. Ron Gourlay, the new chief executive, is under pressure to reduce the wage bill after the club revealed losses of £44 million and a reduced turnover for the financial year to June 30, 2009 as they strive to become self-sufficient.
The million dollar question however, is this: Does Anchelotti think Cole will fit into his system at the tip of the diamond which he undoubtedly feels is a crucial position?
Deco, Cole and even Malouda have been tried there with varying degrees of success but none of them has nailed down the position, so does Anchelotti see that area as one he needs to improve?
I'd hate for him to leave but I'd also hate to see the club cave in to his demands.
Salomon Gonzales is a senior writer for Bleacher Report, the open source sports network.