How Should Tottenham React to Joe Cole Snub?
Triumph for Liverpool, hammer blow (pun intended) for Tottenham?
This will be the initial reaction of Tottenham's fans to yesterday's news that England midfielder and free agent Joe Cole will sign a four-year, £18 million contract at Anfield to become new manager Roy Hodgson's first signing if he completes a medical.
The Cole transfer saga has received similar media coverage to namesake Ashley's protracted £30 million move to Real Madrid.
Former manager Harry Redknapp has been fulsome in his praise for the ex-West Ham winger, who he still describes as the best youth player he has ever worked with. In fact, on hearing the bad news, he had the grace to compare the 28-year-old to Liverpool legend Kenny Dalglish.
Redknapp could barely hide his disappointment, but insisted that he and his chairman, Daniel Levy, had done all they could do to persuade Cole to join their White Hart Lane renaissance movement:
"We tried our very hardest to get him. The chairman made Joe a fantastic offer. But, in the end, we were competing with a club that has years and years of tradition and a reputation as one of the biggest clubs in the world.''
While it would be foolish to argue that Cole is good value for money as a free transfer even in spite of his high wage demands, it could be argued that Tottenham has no need for such a player. Were it not for the nostalgia which still exists between Cole and Redknapp, it is doubtful whether the latter would have made an effort to bring his protege to North London.
Joe Cole is undoubtedly a good Premier League player, a footballer who can create space, pick a pass, and score goals. His 240 appearances for Chelsea and England are testament to this ability.
Yet, Cole was unable to convince England coach Fabio Capello to select him as a World Cup starter. And when Cole did get game time, he made little impact.
It should also be remembered that Carlo Ancelotti, known as one of the great coaches and tacticians, did not fight particularly hard to keep Cole at Chelsea.
On the one hand, Liverpool, bereft of attacking options last season when Fernando Torres was injured and Steven Gerrard suffered a dip in form, is desperate for a player of Cole's initiative and skill.
On the other hand, Tottenham fans can highlight Luka Modric, Giovani Dos Santos, Niko Kranjcar, and Aaron Lennon as wide attacking options who can score and create goals in behind the strikers.
No, it is not creativity and flair which Tottenham lacks.
Rather, Redknapp should now look to recruit a left-back with more intelligence and poise than Benoit Assou-Ekotto and more know-how than Gareth Bale. This would allow the latter to concentrate on running at opposition defenders and causing problems from wide on the left side of the pitch—in particular on the counter-attack.
In fact, with Bale on the left, England's Aaron Lennon on the right, and Luka Modric also wreaking havoc in behind the forwards, balance can only be found in Tottenham's midfield by selecting one, perhaps two defensive-minded central midfielders, depending on whether the circumstances dictate a rigid 4-5-1 formation or a more fluid 4-2-3-1.
If Redknapp is keen to maintain his preferred 4-4-2 lineup, he may even have to sacrifice one of Bale, Lennon, or Modric.
When you also throw in Dos Santos, Kranjcar, Bentley, and also young Danny Rose into the equation, it is clear that Cole would possibly have proved surplus to requirements.
In chairman Levy's case, he is thought to have been reluctant to break the club's strict wage structure—with its £60,000 ($92,000) a week ceiling, to accommodate a 28-year-old England failure.
If, as expected, Robbie Keane completes a £10 million move to Aston Villa later this week, Tottenham will step up its pursuit of a striker with considerable European pedigree: Luis Suarez, Luis Fabiano, and Edin Dzeko are all thought to be open to a move to the Premier League.
So, it is time for Tottenham to get over the disappointment of losing out on Joe Cole, and focus their attentions on signing players which better suit their requirements. Redknapp will have one or two cards up his sleeve, but don't expect White Hart Lane to be a hive of transfer activity this summer...for once.
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