Chelsea dismiss Cole transfer rumours

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The Independent Online

Chelsea are placing little credence into reports that their England midfielder Joe Cole is a transfer target for Manchester United.

The Blues, while not publicly commenting on the suggestion that Cole will head for Old Trafford in the summer, were bullish enough to privately dismiss the prospect as nothing more than speculation.

However, the longer Cole does not resolve his contract impasse with Chelsea, the more feverish the transfer speculation will become.

Talks on a new deal for Cole have dragged on for weeks and are no nearer being concluded.

The 28-year-old will be out of contract in the summer and is desperate to convince England boss Fabio Capello he is worth a place in his world cup squad this summer.

But Cole's form continues to fall under the spotlight and his removal at half-time in the 4-1 FA Cup victory over Cardiff last Saturday has not helped.

Chelsea coach Carlo Ancelotti insists that Cole is an integral part of his plans but the player has yet to force his way back into the side on a regular basis since recovering from his knee ligament injury last year.

Cole was beginning to show signs of returning to his best when he was affected by an unrelated knee injury that kept him out of the 2-1 defeat by Everton last week.

Cole would have been shocked to have been hauled off at half-time against Cardiff but Chelsea captain John Terry insists the player can bounce back.

"He had a problem last week with the 'other' knee," said Terry. "But he was just beginning to buzz again - setting up the first goals against Birmingham and Burnley."

The club's assistant boss Ray Wilkins insists there is no problem with Cole's form and the player himself is understood to want to remain at Chelsea.

But there is clear stalemate over his contract talks which revolve around him being part of Ancelotti's plans as much as it does a pay hike to around £120,000-a-week.

Cole has since started just nine games under Ancelotti and finished only three of them. He has made another six substitute appearances and that lack of playing time is beginning to hinder his chances of an England recall.

Meanwhile, Didier Drogba insists he has settled his differences with the African Football Confederation (CAF) after being shortlisted for 'African Footballer of the Year'.

Drogba confirmed he will be honoured to accept this year's award should he win the accolade in March.

The Chelsea striker is one of the final three nominees for the 2009 award along with Michael Essien and Samuel Eto'o and was the winner for 2006.

However, the Ivory Coast striker was at the centre of controversy the following year when he his participation in the African Nations Cup prevented him from attending the award ceremony in Mali.

It was believed that because of his absence, Frederic Kanoute was named 'Player of the Year' instead and Drogba withdrew from the running for future CAF awards.

But Drogba has now revealed that bridges have since been built with the CAF.

"That was the past," said Drogba. "We all sat down and spoke about it - Mr Hayatou (the CAF president) and the people from the Ivory Coast Federation - so I think everything is good now.

"It is a good trophy and a big honour for a player to win it, especially this year which is so special for the African continent. To win it would be very nice."

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