France's Ligue 1 isn't one of the bigger leagues in Europe. It falls behind England, Spain, Italy and Germany. Even England's second-tier Championship gets more fans through the gates. But that's not to say Ligue 1 is a bad league, far from it. It is one of the most competitive leagues in Europe, with four different winners in the last four seasons. It just suffers from a lack of star names, but it has the history to compete with all of its more illustrious neighbors.
It's also fair to say that Joe Cole didn't have a very good season last year. A transfer from Chelsea to Liverpool was highly anticipated, but ended up disappointing for both parties involved. Like many of former Liverpool manager Roy Hodgson's signings, new manager Kenny Dalglish ostracized Cole, his season limited to a few bit-parts and cameos.
Then in the summer, an offer was made by French champions Lille to take Cole on a season-long loan from Anfield. It was a brave decision for Cole, as English players don't exactly have a great reputation in foreign leagues.
But who could blame him for accepting the move? Lille is conveniently placed in the very north of France, so it's not too far from England. They're also league champions and have qualified for the Champions League group stages, so you can't blame him for switching a place on the Liverpool bench for first-team action with the French champions.
So far he's done well for his new team; four starts and three sub appearances have brought him one goal and one assist. Cole plays up front on the side of a 4-3-3 formation, working well with key players Eden Hazard and Moussa Sow.
Lille suffered over the summer by losing key players like Yohan Cabaye to Newcastle and Gervinho to Arsenal, so bringing in a player of Cole's quality can help them defend their title. So far results have varied, but they remain in the hunt.
Cole told French newspaper l'Equipe that, "You have to make decisions in life. It wasn't the easiest option to come here; there were much simpler possibilities for me to stay in London or make a move in England. But the prospect of coming here really excited me: first of all, we're playing for the title. Then there's the Champions League. I've always dreamed of playing overseas and the opportunity came up to do that in France."
If he can rediscover his form that won him the Premier League, the FA Cup and the League Cup whilst at Chelsea, Lille will no doubt have a player capable of being an essential squad member. But will he stay permanently? He added that, "If the club is happy with me and I'm happy with the club, then why not?"