Cole 'tapped up Chelsea' as new claims emerge

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The Independent Football

Chelsea are alleged to have told a Premier League inquiry yesterday that they admit attending a meeting with Arsenal and England defender Ashley Cole, but the latest development is that the Stamford Bridge club claim it was Cole who tapped up them.

Chelsea are believed to have told the Premier League inquiry's lawyers that the infamous meeting at a London hotel on 27 January was set up by Cole's agent, Jonathan Barnett. It is alleged that Chelsea chief executive Peter Kenyon went to the meeting along with Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho to listen to what the 24-year-old had to say but they did not offer him a deal. It is understood that, in the end, Chelsea were not interested in signing Cole.

Arsenal manager Arsène Wenger will be furious at the latest allegations, and the inquiry is sure to want answers from Barnett over his role in the events.

Chelsea admitted being at the meeting after a waiter signed a sworn affidavit insisting he served Mourinho, Cole and Kenyon at the Royal Park Hotel on 27 January. Barnett had denied the meeting took place but the waiter's affidavit was provided as evidence to the Premier League inquiry.

The inquiry was told that Barnett phoned fellow agent Pini Zahavi asking him to set up a meeting about a move to Chelsea because Cole had become increasingly frustrated by Arsenal's failure to offer him a new improved deal.

Arsenal were offering about £55,0000 a week for a renewed five-year deal but Cole wanted another £30,000 on top of that a week.

Cole's agent knew that if the defender was not going to force Arsenal's hand, there was only one club to approach - the team which is bankrolled by multi-billionaire Roman Abramovich.

The room at the Royal Park is said to have been booked by Zahavi and Barnett turned up with Cole and made his pitch to Kenyon and Mourinho. However, Kenyon's evidence seems to reveal that if there was any tapping-up, it came from a different side.

Chelsea's admission to the inquiry means more charges are likely to be brought against them next week.

Barnett may also be charged and his agent's licence could be in jeopardy while Cole will probably escape punishment but his playing future at Highbury must be in doubt.