Joe Cole at the crossroads as Liverpool dream turns sour once more

view gallery VIEW GALLERY

Unwanted by club and country, the former teen prodigy faces a big decision on the eve of his 31st birthday

When Joe Cole was 19 he was one of the football prodigies featured in Alan Hansen's documentary Football's Dream Factory that correctly predicted a future in which boys would be signed up at ever younger ages by clubs hungry for the next big star.

Even at that young age, Cole had already established himself in the West Ham first team and had a wardrobe full of the shirts of famous opponents in his home in Romford that he proudly showed to Hansen. An England debut came that same year, 2001, and two years later, when West Ham were relegated, he moved to his boyhood club Chelsea.

In so many respects, Cole's career has been a great success. Three Premier League and three FA Cup winners' medals, 56 England caps and a place on the plane to four international tournaments. His wife, Carly, gave birth to their second child, a boy, last month, and he has played in a generation of English footballers for whom the rewards have been golden, if not the success for the national team.

As for Cole's current career, his part in Liverpool's Capital One Cup defeat to Swansea City on Wednesday was the latest evidence that his time at the club is going nowhere. And yet by the standards of the modern footballer this one-time child prodigy is not that old at all. He will turn 31 on Thursday.

Brendan Rodgers was outspoken in his criticism of Cole on Wednesday, especially in a scathing reference to his "astronomical" salary, estimated at anything between £90,000 to £130,000 a week and negotiated by the Christian Purslow regime to bring the player on a free transfer in the summer of 2010.

"Joe Cole had an opportunity, the club has invested an astronomical sum of money in a talented player and he has to seize his opportunities," Rodgers said. "It [Liverpool's approach] was too slow, it just was not what I would expect from a team I had set up to be dynamic so I think it was a difficult night for him."

Having returned this summer from a reasonably successful season at Lille, a bold loan move by English standards, Cole now finds himself caught in modern football's familiar bind. His contract at Liverpool until 2014 is lucrative but his career is going nowhere. If he strikes a deal with the club to walk away, he will lose out financially. In doing so he may also salvage something of the twilight of his career.

In the last two years, he has faded swiftly from the England team. The likes of Steven Gerrard, Frank Lampard, Ashley Cole, Gareth Barry, Scott Parker and Michael Carrick are all older than Joe Cole and, while they have had their highs and lows, all of them are in a stronger position at this moment.

Where did it go wrong for Cole? His suitability or otherwise to fit the template for English football, and Jose Mourinho's many criticisms of him, can be debated endlessly. What is not in doubt is that when he went to Roots Hall on 14 January 2009 for a FA Cup third-round replay against Southend United he was still a key member of Luiz Felipe Scolari's Chelsea team. He ruptured his cruciate ligament and did not play again until the following September.

By then Carlo Ancelotti was Scolari's successor at Chelsea and, while the Italian continued to pick Cole for many of the club's big games in their Double-winning season, he did not seem convinced. When Cole signed for Liverpool he was perceived as a Roy Hodgson buy, although Hodgson later suggested that was not the case. A red card early in his Liverpool career, the resultant suspension and injury meant that, under Hodgson, Cole never got going. When Kenny Dalglish took over, he immediately relegated Cole to the bench. Under Rodgers, who will have known Cole from Chelsea, he came back for a second chance and Liverpool turned down an offer from Spartak Moscow.

At Lille, where Cole made 38 appearances last season, he would have had the chance to play Champions League football, an opportunity that was not on offer at Liverpool. This season there have been more injuries. On Wednesday he was selected to operate as the No 10 behind Samed Yesil but it was not a success.

There will be much cynicism expressed about Cole and the contract he is on at Liverpool. Nevertheless, the club agreed it and, whatever their feeling now, there was great optimism about a player who arrived at Anfield announcing that he had immersed himself in Liverpool's history and was looking forward to a new start in a new city. Cole also said when he signed for Liverpool that he had turned down Arsenal.

As an England player, he won his last cap as a substitute in Bloemfontein in the defeat to Germany at the 2010 World Cup finals. Yet along the way he scored some crucial goals for his country. He will always be remembered for that spectacular long-distance goal against Sweden in the 2006 World Cup but there were others.

When Fabio Capello was under his greatest pressure in the first nine months of the job, Cole scored in the last minute against the Czech Republic to rescue a draw at Wembley. Then he got England's two goals in an awkward win over Andorra in the first 2010 World Cup qualifier and was part of the team that beat Croatia 4-1 in Zagreb, a result that gave Capello's regime lift-off.

If Capello was grateful to Cole, he certainly never showed it. To his credit, Cole was one of the most outspoken about the failings of the 2010 World Cup team and was never selected again, although given his Liverpool form the following season that is hardly surprising.

Staying at Liverpool, isolated and unwanted, would be a sad way to see Cole end his career. He will feel, with some justification, he is not obliged to walk away from his contract. He may believe that Rodgers crossed a line on Wednesday by mentioning his salary. If Cole regarded a loan move to Lille as a drastic solution to his save his ailing career last season, he may be in need of something even more radical this time around.

Cole in numbers

100 Minutes played for Liverpool this season – including just two starts.

45 Minutes Cole lasted on his Liverpool league debut, v Arsenal, before being sent off.

2010 Cole's last England cap came against Germany in the 2010 World Cup second-round defeat.

38 Games played by Cole on loan at Lille last season, scoring nine goals.

Suggested Topics
News
people
News
people
News
peopleStella McCartney apologises over controversial Instagram picture
Life and Style
Laid bare: the Good2Go app ensures people have a chance to make their intentions clear about having sex
techCould Good2Go end disputes about sexual consent - without being a passion-killer?
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Richard Burr remains the baker to beat on the Great British Bake Off
tvRichard remains the baker to beat as Chetna begins to flake
News
i100
Sport
footballArsenal 4 Galatasaray 1: Wenger celebrates 18th anniversary in style
Arts and Entertainment
Amazon has added a cautionary warning to Tom and Jerry cartoons on its streaming service
tv
News
people
News
The village was originally named Llansanffraid-ym-Mechain after the Celtic female Saint Brigit, but the name was changed 150 years ago to Llansantffraid – a decision which suggests the incorrect gender of the saint
newsA Welsh town has changed its name - and a prize if you can notice how
Arts and Entertainment
Kristen Scott Thomas in Electra at the Old Vic
theatreReview: Kristin Scott Thomas is magnificent in a five-star performance of ‘Electra’
News
Destructive discourse: Jewish boys look at anti-Semitic graffiti sprayed on to the walls of the synagogue in March 2006, near Tel Aviv
peopleAt the start of Yom Kippur and with anti-Semitism flourishing, one Jew can no longer ignore his identity
Life and Style
Couples who boast about their relationship have been condemned as the most annoying Facebook users
tech
Arts and Entertainment
Hayley Williams performs with Paramore in New York
musicParamore singer says 'Steal Your Girl' is itself stolen from a New Found Glory hit
News
i100
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

Italian couples fake UK divorce scam on an ‘industrial scale’

Welcome to Maidenhead, the divorce capital of... Italy

A look at the the legal tourists who exploited our liberal dissolution rules
Time to stop running: At the start of Yom Kippur and with anti-Semitism flourishing, one Jew can no longer ignore his identity

Time to stop running

At the start of Yom Kippur and with anti-Semitism flourishing, one Jew can no longer ignore his identity
Tom and Jerry cartoons now carry a 'racial prejudice' warning on Amazon

Tom and Jerry cartoons now carry a 'racial prejudice' warning on Amazon

The vintage series has often been criticised for racial stereotyping
An app for the amorous: Could Good2Go end disputes about sexual consent - without being a passion-killer?

An app for the amorous

Could Good2Go end disputes about sexual consent - without being a passion-killer?
Llansanffraid is now Llansantffraid. Welsh town changes its name, but can you spot the difference?

Llansanffraid is now Llansantffraid

Welsh town changes its name, but can you spot the difference?
Charlotte Riley: At the peak of her powers

Charlotte Riley: At the peak of her powers

After a few early missteps with Chekhov, her acting career has taken her to Hollywood. Next up is a role in the BBC’s gangster drama ‘Peaky Blinders’
She's having a laugh: Britain's female comedians have never had it so good

She's having a laugh

Britain's female comedians have never had it so good, says stand-up Natalie Haynes
Sistine Chapel to ‘sing’ with new LED lights designed to bring Michelangelo’s masterpiece out of the shadows

Let there be light

Sistine Chapel to ‘sing’ with new LEDs designed to bring Michelangelo’s masterpiece out of the shadows
Great British Bake Off, semi-final, review: Richard remains the baker to beat

Tensions rise in Bake Off's pastry week

Richard remains the baker to beat as Chetna begins to flake
Paris Fashion Week, spring/summer 2015: Time travel fashion at Louis Vuitton in Paris

A look to the future

It's time travel fashion at Louis Vuitton in Paris
The 10 best bedspreads

The 10 best bedspreads

Before you up the tog count on your duvet, add an extra layer and a room-changing piece to your bed this autumn
Arsenal vs Galatasaray: Five things we learnt from the Emirates

Arsenal vs Galatasaray

Five things we learnt from the Gunners' Champions League victory at the Emirates
Stuart Lancaster’s long-term deal makes sense – a rarity for a decision taken by the RFU

Lancaster’s long-term deal makes sense – a rarity for a decision taken by the RFU

This deal gives England a head-start to prepare for 2019 World Cup, says Chris Hewett
Ebola outbreak: The children orphaned by the virus – then rejected by surviving relatives over fear of infection

The children orphaned by Ebola...

... then rejected by surviving relatives over fear of infection
Pride: Are censors pandering to homophobia?

Are censors pandering to homophobia?

US film censors have ruled 'Pride' unfit for under-16s, though it contains no sex or violence