Chelsea: Should Ashley Cole leave the Bridge?
Ashley Cole is one of the most hated men in football, but it has nothing to do with his ability on the pitch. No, the undesirable 31-year-old has been lambasted for being greedy, for believing he is above the sanctimony of marriage and for thinking that he can go around shooting work experience boys in the eye with an airgun.
No matter what he does, Cole will always be remembered for cheating on the nation's sweetheart Cheryl Cole, for sending pictures of his manhood to women from his mobile phone and for almost crashing his car when he realised Arsenal were only going to offer him a contract of £55,000 a week.
However, that is just an image peddled by the tabloid Press. I've heard it from countless journalists that Cole is one of the nicest guys in the game. I believe it was Talksport's Mark Saggers who said he once conducted a full interview with Cole but forgot to press record on his tape recorder. Instead of throwing a hissy-fit and blaming Saggs for wasting his time, Cole agreed to do the whole interview again. What a professional. What a nice guy.
On the pitch Cole is a winner and has developed into one of the greatest left-backs of our generation. He has won every major honour going with Chelsea and is a vital cog in the Chelsea defence, so I can understand his frustration at the club only offering him a new one-year deal.
Roman Abramovich refuses to offer a player over the age of 30 a contract longer than one year. Some of you may defend the Russian oligarch's decision. At that age some players can lose their hunger for the game and become stale. But I'd be really surprised if that happened to Ashley Cole. He remains one of the best defenders in the game, still looks after his body impeccably and wants more silverware on his mantelpiece.
After years of being criticised for his lack of defensive nous, Cole has now mastered his game and has picked up countless accolades for his efforts. He's not going to throw all that out of the window just because he has signed an improved deal.
It has been reported that Cole would love to see out his career at the Bridge, but there's no way Abramovich is going to give him a five-year deal. He would even be lucky to be offered two.
So Cole is at a crossroads. Does he sign a one-year deal? A deal that he believes is a slap in the face considering everything he has given to the Blues over the past six years, or does he move on for free in 2013?
Financially the only option would be to move. He would pick up a huge signing on fee and pocket more money per week. But what about professionally? The former Arsenal defender loves London. It's his home city and it would be a huge wrench to leave, especially as Chelsea have started laying the foundations for a team that may dominate the game for years to come. However, a change of scenery could be the making of him as a man.
Spanish giants Real Madrid are reportedly keeping a close eye on the situation. Manager Jose Mourinho was the man who took Cole from Arsenal to Chelsea in 2006 and would love to work with him again. Madrid are not short of a few bob and would give Cole a contract to reward his skills. Playing in a different country and learning a new culture could broaden his horizons and make him a more well- rounded individual.
What about Manchester City? I'm sure they wouldn't turn down the option of signing Cole and would literally throw money at him to sign. But would he be willing to move up north and play for another Premier League club?
Ashley Cole has been a huge player for Chelsea over the past six years. Along with John Terry and Frank Lampard, Ashley Cole has made his mark in the history of this proud club.
But will he be able to work something out with Abramovich which will see him tie his future to the club, or will he bid the Bridge a fond farewell after seven seasons? I think you'd be hard pressed to find many Chelsea fans who would let Cole leave, but you never know.
Personally, at his age, I would be seriously tempted to leave. After giving six of the best years of his career to the club and wanting a bit of security, only to be offered a one-year deal, I would be furious. You couldn't blame Cole if he left. He has been a loyal servant to Chelsea down the years and just wants to be paid what he feels he deserves.
I'm sure John Terry and Frank Lampard will be watching this situation with baited breath. This could be the beginning of the end for the Chelsea warriors.
Calling all Chelsea fans: Do you think Roman is right to only offer a one-year deal to Cole? Or do you think Cole deserves whatever deal he wants at the club? Whatever your views, we'd love to hear from you.
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