One of Liverpool's most highly paid and under-performing senior players might be set for a January exit after a far from fulfilling spell at the club, with Queens Park Rangers said to be interested in taking Joe Cole from Anfield.
Cole joined Liverpool on a free transfer in 2010 as part of Roy Hodgson's new-look Reds but failed to have a sustained positive effect on the team.
Injuries, suspension and poor fitness and form saw him lose his place in the second half of the season under Kenny Dalglish, while he spent 2011-12 out on loan at Lille. This season he has returned to the squad under Brendan Rodgers, his third manager at the club already, but has yet to start a single Premier League game and has played just six times as sub.
A couple of goals—one in the league, one in Europe—have been scant reward for the team from a player of whom much was expected initially, yet so little has been delivered.
Cole has struggled consistently to maintain his fitness, getting injured shortly after coming on as sub himself earlier in the season and missing out on the squad to the younger players such as Suso, Raheem Sterling and Jordan Henderson since then.
Sky Sports estimate that Cole might be on a weekly salary of £90,000 at Liverpool, while other rumours have placed an even higher number on his earnings. This appears not to dissuade QPR and their new manager Harry Redknapp, who see Cole as a possible recruit to help them to safety in the new year.
Cole was not in the matchday squad for the Reds as they beat QPR 3-0 at Loftus Road in the final match of 2012, a result which leaves the Hoops bottom of the Premier League table at the turn of the year.
Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers spoke about Cole's future recently to Sky Sports, saying that his time at Anfield could come to an end if it was the player's choosing:
It's not just about the games. Every player gets a chance every single day to show what they are all about. Is his future here? You would have to ask him that. The guy is still a Liverpool player, and while he's a Liverpool player I'll work as hard as I can with my staff to try to make him the best we possibly can.
If he's not going to play as often as he wants then he's no different to any player really. Players are about game time and money. But he's not any kind of problem, he's a good guy and we will see what happens over the coming months.
With Liverpool sure to add to the attacking areas of the squad further over the coming weeks, there will seemingly be even less game time for Cole on the agenda, so his exit would not only benefit himself for minutes on the pitch, but it would also aid the Reds as they continue their search for fair value from the squad.
Cole's rumoured wages would likely cover those handed to both potential new arrivals, Daniel Sturridge and Tom Ince; while they might not be the players that all fans hoped to see, they will certainly spend more time in the first team and contribute more to the attack than Cole has done so far this season.
Pace, creativity and goal threat is what Rodgers seeks from his wide forwards; Cole has not given anywhere near enough of that to Liverpool so far, and Sturridge and Ince can provide far more.
Whether the former England international can provide enough of it to help QPR off the foot of the table is another matter—but Liverpool will certainly be glad to get his wages off the bill and make a little more room in the squad for players who could help the Reds reach the top four of the table.