Ashley Cole Should Quit Chelsea and Experience Life Abroad with PSG or Madrid
We find Cole on familiar ground. The 31-year-old will be out of contract in the summer and is said to be demanding more than the one-year extension Chelsea are prepared to offer him.
According to Neil Ashton's exclusive, this is more than just payday posturing from the England fullback. Cole is ready to talk to Real Madrid and Paris Saint-Germain in January, while Manchester City and Manchester United have also been mentioned in dispatches.
United would obviously love to sign him. Patrice Evra's deemed vulnerability has been well documented, while Alexander Buttner is a young player Sir Alex Ferguson would prefer to ease in over time.
City have Gael Clichy and Aleksandar Kolarov, but Cole would undoubtedly represent an upgrade at left-back. Moreover, any time you have a world-class talent on the market, it's not hard to imagine Roberto Mancini rummaging around frantically for Sheik Mansour's credit card.
Should Cole leave Chelsea, however, choosing United or City would be the safe move. He'd be doing the same job (for more cash, obviously), in the same league, and be immersed in the same football culture.
At 31, it might seem like the only sensible decision to make. But if this is Cole's last big move, why not take the chance to further himself abroad and add another layer to his legacy? Why not take on a bold new challenge and see where the journey takes him?
How refreshing would it be to see Cole learning French or Spanish, engaged in a new life and thriving in new surroundings?
With a move to Madrid or Paris would come a chance to hone his craft. He'd arrive as a player at his peak and with a chance to escape the soap opera that has followed his career from Arsenal to Chelsea and now as a senior member of the England national team—much of it Cole has invited upon himself.
With fresh perspective, Cole could begin to rebuild his reputation. It would show him as being open to things outside his perceived narrow sphere and put some much-needed distance between Cole and those in England who spit bile at his every mention.
For motivations football and personal, it's time for Cole to leave home. And, if he were any other nationality, we'd deem it a serious possibility.
But for whatever reason, England's best players have proved themselves largely reluctant to experience life in other leagues. There have been exceptions of course—the likes of Kevin Keegan, Glenn Hoddle, Gary Lineker, David Beckham, Michael Owen and Paul Gascoigne among them—but the general rule is for England's finest to stay on their island.
Of Roy Hodgson's current England squad of 23 players, only one plays outside of England. That man is backup goalkeeper Fraser Forster, who plays for Celtic in Scotland.
Naturally, having the world's richest league on your doorstep is a factor in that decision. But when you consider only one of the last 15 Ballon d'Or winners—Owen in 2001—was playing in his home country, you could argue that the world's best players are often the best traveled.
Zinedine Zidane mastered midfield play in France, Italy and Spain. Cristiano Ronaldo carries lessons learned from Portugal, England and Spain into his every appearance these days. Zlatan Ibrahimovic is younger than Cole, but has a football brain wired to perform in five European leagues.
There's something to be said for legacy of course, but Cole will never be associated to Chelsea in the same way Ryan Giggs is to Manchester United, or Alessandro Del Piero was to Juventus.
Where will Cole be next season?
Cole left Arsenal because they wouldn't pay him enough. He joined Chelsea because they would and has gone on to achieve considerable success at the club. But it was never an affair of the heart, and it's hard to imagine Chelsea fans will spend too long mourning his departure if he leaves.
That will be especially true if he leaves for City or United. So unless Cole wants his career to be remembered most by two sets of fans who resent him, he would be wise to either stay at Chelsea or seek refuge overseas.
To make a refreshing change, and for the good of his career, I hope he takes a risk and chooses the latter.
Providing he doesn't know the French or Spanish for "t**t.", we might just see another side of the man who has succeeded John Terry into the role as England's most hated player.
And, should he prove a success, Cole just might set an example for his insular England teammates to follow.
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