The story of how Jose Mourinho came to sign Ashley Cole was one of modern football’s most divisive stories, beginning in a meeting room of the Royal Park hotel in January 2005 and ending with the most controversial transfer in Chelsea’s history 18 months later.
If there was a precedent for Mourinho's current pursuit of Wayne Rooney then it is surely Cole's journey from Arsenal to Chelsea which came to a conclusion in the summer of 2006 via one very public Premier League tapping-up enquiry. Yet even if Rooney joins Chelsea before the end of this transfer window on 2 September, the likelihood is that it will never be as poisonous as Cole's move to Chelsea was seven years ago.
Today in Jakarta there was a rare appearance in front of the media from Cole alongside Mourinho, just hours after the squad arrived in Indonesia for the third leg of their Asia tour. At 32, Cole has long since closed the door on the English press, not even his 100th cap for England last season warranted a word in public from him, but in Jakarta the locals applauded him in.
Questions about the future of Rooney are off-limits for Chelsea, and in a hotel room packed with more than 500 reporters he was not asked about the player who is arguably his closest friend in the England squad. On international duty, the two of them are often inseparable, and it was put to Cole whether he could ever envisage a scenario where a player might turn down the opportunity to play under Mourinho.
Cole said: "For me, of course I jumped at the chance. He's a great manager. He proved how good he is with the number of trophies he's won with different teams. He's great at motivating players and keeping you on your toes, doing what you should be doing. It's a pleasure to play under him. For me, if he wanted me to come to Chelsea, it would be one thought in my mind to come here to be under a great manager is an honour."
The deal to sign Cole cost Chelsea £375,000 in fines levied at the club and their manager Mourinho, which were more before being reduced on appeal, for breaking regulation K3 which prohibited tapping-up. It left a lingering enmity between Cole, also fined, and Mourinho on one side, and Arsenal on the other, which characterised Mourinho's first spell at the club.
It was intriguing to hear yesterday that Cole felt the 2006-2007 season he had underperformed under Mourinho, despite having won both domestic cups. "I've won things but, from day one when I first started playing football, I've always wanted to win," he said. "That feeling has never gone away. Having the manager back now from 2006 when he bought me, I still feel I owe him something. I didn't play as well as I could back then, and as well as I have for Chelsea since
"I owe him a lot, personally. As a team, I hope we can go on and win many trophies. It's a big club and we need to win trophies. With the new players coming in, I think we can win back the Premier League title
"I wouldn't say he's different. He's always had one aim, one objective, and that's to win. I think it doesn't matter what you've achieved, or what you've done in football. You've got to train well and give 100 per cent for him. The one thing is he'll always give players a chance, if they're training and playing well. The boys are confident and happy he's back. You can see there's a new lease of life in some of the players, and that is good for us."
In spite of suggestions he would leave this summer, Cole signed a one-year contract extension in January, and is still the club and England's first-choice left-back going into the new season. Could he stay beyond next summer? "That's not down to me," he said. "I've got to keep training hard, playing well and keep my place in the team. We'll see what goes from there. I love Chelsea. I've been here seven years now and I'd love to stay here as long as I can."Reuse content