The England midfielder is unhappy that he has made just two starts so far this season and has spoken to friends about his frustration with the situation.
If such a situation continues it is likely that Cole may contemplate a move because, according to sources close to him, he "simply wants to play" and has become disheartened at his lack of opportunities at Stamford Bridge.
Cole talked to Jose Mourinho about his unhappiness last season and was given a sympathetic audience, with the Chelsea manager saying it "breaks his heart" to leave the 23-year-old out of his team.
The frustration felt by Cole is compounded by the fact that he finished last season so strongly, with 18 consecutive starts for Chelsea, and has established himself in the England side.
Over the summer the club raised the issue of a new contract for Cole but that was put on hold because they became embroiled in the protracted attempt to sign Michael Essien from Lyon.
Now Cole, who has two years left on his current deal, is in no hurry to agree a new five-year deal although, ideally, he would prefer to stay at Chelsea.
He joined in the summer of 2003 for £6.6m from West Ham and now wants to see how many games he plays in a season which culminates in the World Cup finals before deciding his future.
It is likely that Cole's frustration will blow over if he gets a run of games. He is set to start today's Premiership match away to Charlton Athletic.
Yesterday Mourinho attempted to play down suggestions that Cole was unhappy enough to leave.
"I think this story is unbelievable," he said. "For me it means nothing so I cannot speak to him about it. If anyone did want to leave, they should have spoken one month ago and not now.
"Now he has to wait until December or January [when the transfer window reopens] to move to another club.
"We have the saying in Portugal that there is no smoke without fire. If there is a fire here it is a stupid one. It will have to burn for three months, and with the rain in England?"
However, at the same time, he conceded that "every player has his price" and there is unlikely to be a shortage of interest in Cole should he become available.
Last year Cole was unhappy at being left out and discussed the problem with Mourinho, who said yesterday: "Last season Cole was so open. He came knocking on my door 10 times to ask why he wasn't playing. The players know I'm open but they will not get an explanation about not playing unless they ask.
"Last season I had things to change in Joe Cole's game. I told him he had to work on this or that. We spoke and the feedback was all about change. This season he never comes to me. But if he comes to speak to me I will tell him he has played six out of seven games."
Cole probably did not expect his unhappiness to be made public.
Mourinho has had already suffered one outburst from Ricardo Carvalho this season, when the Portuguese defender complained about not playing in the first two games.
Mourinho later said he "killed" Carvalho in front of his team-mates to punish him and he added yesterday: "It's frustrating if this kind of thing happens. If the player does not go eye-to-eye with me then that is a problem."
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