Chelsea tell Real that Cole reunion with Mourinho would cost £30m

Chelsea have have indicated they would want £30m to consider selling Ashley Cole to Real Madrid, unless the player himself makes it clear he wants to leave.

Madrid's new manager, Jose Mourinho, was the man who brought Cole, 29, to Chelsea in controversial circumstances four years ago. But the chances of him being reunited with the England defender whom he described as "the best left-back in the world" now look remote.

Madrid dropped out of the running to sign Liverpool's Steven Gerrard because the asking price was too high. However, the Real goalkeeper and Spain captain, Iker Casillas, said this week he is confident Cole will move to Spain, while the player himself has been reported to have been telling friends that he "hates" living in England following the intense media attention that has followed his very public split from his pop star wife, Cheryl.

Cole, who signed a new four-year contract only last September, has been on holiday in the United States and, as is the case with all the Chelsea players who were eliminated in the knockout phase of the World Cup, is not due back for pre-season training until 26 July.

The midfielder Michael Essien however has spent the summer at the club's Cobham training ground and is to play his first game of the year today at Crystal Palace. His manager Carlo Ancelotti said yesterday: "It is six months out and I think that he will be excited to play. Essien will start, maybe for 45 to 60 minutes."

New signing Yossi Benayoun, who moved to Stamford Bridge from Liverpool for £5.5m, will not be making his debut at Selhurst Park as he has a slight groin injury. The strain is not serious and the midfielder is expected to be fit for next week's friendly with Ajax in the Netherlands.

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