There were many eyebrows raised when news came through that Chelsea’s unwanted Joe Cole signed a four year deal with Liverpool after hawking himself to half a dozen clubs. Before anyone throws the accusation that Manchester United fans are obsessed with what goes on at Anfield, it has to be made clear that irrespective of where Cole ended up going, these comments would have been precisely the same.
Sir Alex Ferguson was widely reported to be interested in taking Cole to Old Trafford. After all, here’s a current England international, a three time Premier League winner available on a free transfer who’s not yet 29 years old. Many United fans were disappointed when Ferguson decided against signing him with the question of ‘Why’ consistently raised.
Granted, Cole had suffered a cruciate ligament injury which required an operation and kept him out of Stamford Bridge action for almost an entire season but he was then included in last month’s England World Cup squad indicating that he was back to full fitness. Yet apart from Sir Alex, a number of clubs reported to include Arsenal, Tottenham Hotspur, West Ham, Manchester City and Real Madrid all rejected him before the midfielder finally signed a four year contract at Anfield.
The deal even surprised Anfield fans who must have noted Cole’s agent being quoted as saying just a few days earlier that “Football is the most important thing to Joe and continuing to play in the Champions League is high on his priorities.” Yet Cole has now committed himself to the Europa League which in truth is for clubs who failed to qualify for Europe’s biggest competition and is the equivalent to a European second division.
In case some Liverpool fans get the impression that these are merely the opinions of a disappointed United man, here’s what a Liverpool supporter had to say after the news broke, someone who is so committed to his club that he runs a ‘Liverpool Kop’ website “Money grabbing, injury prone mercenary joins LFC. Happy days!” then goes on to say that “It’s not about attitude, Cole IS injury prone. He IS money grabbing, note Carlo Ancelotti’s recent comments about Cole leaving for ‘economic reasons’ and the fact that he held out for the most money makes him a mercenary.”
“Do you really think he signed for Liverpool because he desperately wants to play for us?” he continued “if Spurs or Arsenal had offered more money he would’ve went there. West Ham offered more, but he’s hardly likely to take such a massive step down is he? Of course, I hope he does well” he says “however, it just leaves a bad taste in my mouth that the club is willing to join the mercenary merry go round. Arsenal wouldn’t meet his wage demands, but they stuck to their guns and will probably buy someone who is NOT injury prone. Liverpool should’ve done the same.”
‘Mercenary’ is a strong word, it can almost be offensive because of the connotations it has to that of being a ‘prostitute’ but let’s not be holier than thou. There are many footballers around the world who are prepared to sell themselves to the highest bidder but there has to be a question of degree. A footballer who is reported to be one of the wealthiest in England made it blatantly clear that “Football is NOT the most important thing” because the difference of a few thousand pounds a week was allowed to decide his playing future.
Managers like Ferguson and Arsene Wenger did not come down in the last shower and know exactly what they want to see in a player. For all his many critics, Dimitar Berbatov plainly showed his desire to play for United when he ignored a previously arranged meeting at Eastlands even though City were throwing much more money at him when he left Spurs. The Bulgarian signed for Sir Alex on the spot because of his longing to play for a club like United.
New Anfield boss Roy Hodgson is acknowledged to be a highly principled manager in the same mould as Sir Alex, a man who values the old tried and true traditions of the game. Perhaps the only reason that he was prepared to sacrifice those values was a desperation to bring the big name signing to Liverpool that most of it’s fans so desperately demanded.
Did you want Ferguson to give in to Cole’s demands and sign him for United?