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
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Voices
Chris Grayling, Justice Secretary: 'There are pressures which we are facing but there is not a crisis'
voices

Does Chris Grayling realise what a vague concept he is dealing with?

News
Brian Harvey turned up at Downing Street today demanding to speak to the Prime Minister

Met Police confirm it was a 'minor disturbance' and no-one was arrested

News
Blackpool is expected to become one of the first places to introduce the Government’s controversial new Public Space Protection Orders (PSPOs)
news

Concerns raised phenomenon is threatening resort's image as a family destination

Life and Style
gaming

I Am Bread could actually be a challenging and nuanced title

News
Nigel Farage has backed DJ Mike Read's new Ukip song
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Shia LaBeouf plays a World War II soldier in forthcoming drama Fury
films

Eccentric Fury star, 28, reveals he is 'not a really confident actor'

Life and Style
Time and Oak have developed a product that allows drinkers to customise the flavour and improve the quality of cheaper whiskey
food + drink

Sport
football

Peter Biaksangzuala died from his injuries in hospital on Sunday

Life and Style
The final 12 acts will be facing Simon Cowell, Cheryl Fernandez-Versini, Mel B and Louis Walsh tonight
fashion

The X Factor's judges colourful outfit was mocked by Simon Cowell

News
news

Footage shot by a passerby shows moment an ill man was carried out of his burning home

News
people
Latest in Sport
Sport
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

Oscar Pistorius sentencing: The athlete's wealth and notoriety have provoked a long overdue debate on South African prisons

'They poured water on, then electrified me...'

If Oscar Pistorius is sent to jail, his experience will not be that of other inmates
James Wharton: The former Guard now fighting discrimination against gay soldiers

The former Guard now fighting discrimination against gay soldiers

Life after the Army has brought new battles for the LGBT activist James Wharton
Ebola in the US: Panic over the virus threatens to infect President Obama's midterms

Panic over Ebola threatens to infect the midterms

Just one person has died, yet November's elections may be affected by what Republicans call 'Obama's Katrina', says Rupert Cornwell
Premier League coaches join the RSC to swap the tricks of their trades

Darling, you were fabulous! But offside...

Premier League coaches are joining the RSC to learn acting skills, and in turn they will teach its actors to play football. Nick Clark finds out why
How to dress with authority: Kirsty Wark and Camila Batmanghelidjh discuss the changing role of fashion in women's workwear

How to dress with authority

Kirsty Wark and Camila Batmanghelidjh discuss the changing role of fashion in women's workwear
New book on Joy Division's Ian Curtis sheds new light on the life of the late singer

New book on Ian Curtis sheds fresh light on the life of the late singer

'Joy Division were making art... Ian was for real' says author Jon Savage
Sean Harris: A rare interview with British acting's secret weapon

Sean Harris: A rare interview with British acting's secret weapon

The Bafta-winner talks Hollywood, being branded a psycho, and how Barbra Streisand is his true inspiration
Tim Minchin, interview: The musician, comedian and world's favourite ginger is on scorching form

Tim Minchin interview

For a no-holds-barred comedian who is scathing about woolly thinking and oppressive religiosity, he is surprisingly gentle in person
Boris Johnson's boozing won't win the puritan vote

Boris's boozing won't win the puritan vote

Many of us Brits still disapprove of conspicuous consumption – it's the way we were raised, says DJ Taylor
Ash frontman Tim Wheeler reveals how he came to terms with his father's dementia

Tim Wheeler: Alzheimer's, memories and my dad

Wheeler's dad suffered from Alzheimer's for three years. When he died, there was only one way the Ash frontman knew how to respond: with a heartfelt solo album
Hugh Bonneville & Peter James: 'Peter loves his classic cars; I've always pootled along fine with a Mini Metro. I think I lack his panache'

How We Met: Hugh Bonneville & Peter James

'Peter loves his classic cars; I've always pootled along fine with a Mini Metro. I think I lack his panache'
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's heavenly crab dishes don't need hours of preparation

Bill Granger's heavenly crab recipes

Scared off by the strain of shelling a crab? Let a fishmonger do the hard work so you can focus on getting the flavours right
Radamel Falcao: How faith and love drive the Colombian to glory

Radamel Falcao: How faith and love drive the Colombian to glory

After a remarkable conversion from reckless defender to prolific striker, Monaco's ace says he wants to make his loan deal at Old Trafford permanent
Terry Venables: Premier League managers must not be allowed to dictate who plays and who does not play for England

Terry Venables column

Premier League managers must not be allowed to dictate who plays and who does not play for England
The Inside Word: Brendan Rodgers looks to the future while Roy Hodgson is ghost of seasons past

Michael Calvin's Inside Word

Brendan Rodgers looks to the future while Roy Hodgson is ghost of seasons past