Smart footballers lie about their age. It’s tougher for a global superstar but down the ladder I’ve known three or four lads in the professional and semi-professional ranks who cheekily made a couple of years evaporate when it came to contract time - and they always got away with it.
Being a naïve goody-two-shoes, I was always too honest for my own good, but never was I actually asked to prove when I was born.
It’s a running joke at Chelsea of course. Samuel Eto’o could be anything between 33 or 40 according to the rumour mill, and with this in mind I wonder, what if Ashley Cole could have secretly shaved 24-36 months off without anyone realizing?
Do we think the Blues would still be practically shoving their famous left-back out of the door? I don’t.
He’s 33 not 30, and to the bean counters, that’s significant. It’s why the club has only offered him a one-year deal on vastly reduced terms. The emergence of Cesar Azpilicueta has of course, contributed too.
Yet to my eyes, Ashley Cole has still got it.
His performances in Chelsea’s biggest matches of the season, away to Atletico Madrid and Liverpool, were absolutely magnificent. He looked as fresh and as brilliantly dogged as he always has. Any signs of ageing were extremely well concealed.
In his 26 appearances for the Blues this season, Cole was part of a defence that kept 14 clean sheets. Not too shabby. His full record reads 16 wins, 5 draws and 5 defeats.
Unusually disappointing displays against FC Basle and Newcastle United seemed to be held against him by Jose Mourinho.
The only other times he started in a defeat were at Sunderland in the Capital One Cup, and in losses to Everton and Atletico. In those last two he was tactically replaced early in the second half; decisions that achieved no positive impact incidentally.
We might not have seen as much of Cole this season, but that doesn’t mean he’s all washed up.
Personally, I think he’ll be the bargain signing of the summer. It’s no surprise that interest in his signature is high. The shortest odds are on moneybags Monaco to nab him - 2.15.
You don’t have to pay income tax in the Principality, and for a man that’s bitterly remembered in north London for his love of a pound coin (or Euro I’m sure) that’s got to strike a positive chord. Yet, it’s all a bit soulless at the Stade Louis II isn’t it?
Potentially ending your career in front of small crowds in a lower ranked league isn’t the way I’d want to bow out – especially when you don’t need the cash.
Given that the club’s owner, Russian oligarch Dmitry Rybolovlev has just been told he must pay his ex-wife £2.6billion in a divorce settlement, it might make him a little less generous when offering fresh terms to his players too.
Crucially, Monaco hasn’t got a manager in place either. If I were in Cole’s shoes, I’d think there were too many black marks.
The ex-England star played the best football of his career under Carlo Ancelotti at Chelsea, so Real Madrid is another viable option at odds of 4.50.
While they’re not short of quality left-backs, Fabio Coentrao and Marcelo don’t quite have the nose for defending that the Londoner possesses. Should Ancelotti land the coveted La Decima this weekend and therefore remain at the Santiago Bernabeu, a move to the Spanish capital this summer might be where the smart money lies.
Both Manchester giants are reportedly semi-interested too, but I’d see City as the better bet for Cole if they were to pursue him, available at 15.00.
Louis van Gaal and the Manchester United board appear set on Luke Shaw, while on the flip side Manuel Pellegrini isn’t convinced he has the all-round package in either of his incumbents.
Aleksandr Kolarov gets to play in the easier games because of his attacking prowess, while Gael Clichy is given the nod for contests where more nous is required at the back. The potential to sign a player who can be relied upon in all areas must be appealing to the title-winning Chilean.
Given how good he still is, I don’t see Cole heading for the MLS just yet. He loves the States by all accounts, but I’m not convinced it’s a move that will inspire him.
A switch to Liverpool might – at 5.00.
Brendan Rodgers has always been a huge admirer, and even though he’s thrilled by the progress of Jon Flanagan, the chance to sign Ashley Cole on a free transfer would surely be too tempting to pass up.
To mount another title challenge, and to compete in next season’s Champions League, Liverpool are crying out for a stronger, more reliable back four. And, forgetting how old he is for a moment - removing that number from your mind - can you think of an available left-back that’s more dependable than Ashley Cole? I can’t.
It’s a transfer that makes sense for all concerned. The Reds get a solid, experienced defender; Cole gets to travel on ‘another journey’ that’s sure to provide plenty of excitement. If they’re smart, I think they can make it happen.
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