Joe Cole To Manchester United Is Madness
A United move for Chelsea's Joe Cole is today's tabloid top tip.
The England midfielder is in talks with his current employer over a new deal.
At the same time, his agent is working as hard away from the negotiating table, raising the stakes with the London club's money-men by slipping word to the newspapers that his charge is thinking of moving elsewhere.
And to a close rival too!
Cue indigestion on the King's Road as the bait is swallowed whole by the press and blogosphere.
The Express raced into print to alert fans to the fact that "Sir Alex Ferguson has been an admirer of Cole for some time and the prospect of picking up such an experienced and talented player on the cheap would be an attractive one."
There was more.
"United boss Ferguson is looking for reinforcements on the left for Ryan Giggs and Cole, who could be available as a free agent, would be a bargain."
Giggs out. Cole in. A tidy transfer sum saved. Everything's neat and tidy!
Except that the tale is surely cobblers.
Yes, United are skint. Yes, the club has no one who has made the left wing berth his own in Giggs' declining years. Yes, Cole is a decent player who was once chased by Fergie.
But no, Joe Cole is not the player United need for next season.
Cole is just coming back from a cruciate ligament injury that took nearly a year from his career.
Whilst a cruciate injury is not the career killer it was in the 1980's, it would still be a huge gamble for United to bring in a player still finding his form and due to celebrate his 29th birthday next November. The example of Owen Hargreaves, a player signed with the dreaded tendinitis in both knees, should be a cautionary tale for everyone at Old Trafford.
United need pace, youth, and vigour on the left flank. The club has placed the accent on youth and is scouring the globe to bring in fresh talent with bright futures not experienced stars close to 30-years-of-age.
That was certainly the point being made to the newspapers last year when the club was scrambling to save face after the Franck Ribery deal went south.
"We are not in the market for paying a lot of money for players who are 27, 28, or 29," Chief Executive David Gill told the Telegraph last August.
"We don't think it's good value. That would be their last contract and at the end of that contract they won't be worth a lot of money, but we're happy to pay significant sums of money for players up to the age of about 25."
Whilst the policy is not without its flaws, it is not worth abandoning, even for a player of Cole's undoubted qualities.
United won't have to pay a transfer fee for Cole but the club will have to stump up a huge signing on fee and wages that would place Cole at the higher end of United's pay league.
Some £720 million of debt concentrates minds at United and demands hard choices.
Joe Cole is a good player but his best days are behind him.
United must do better.
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