As you’ve probably heard, the perennial golden boy of English football Joe Cole signed up to a four-year stint at Liverpool yesterday, thus ending months of mounting speculation as to where he would pitch up next in search of a suitable stage to display his continually stuttering talents.
Since breaking into the nation’s collective footballing psyche shortly before the turn of the millennium following a much vaunted progression through the youth ranks at West Ham, Cole has perpetually flattered to deceive in terms relative to the player that he should of become based on his obvious potential.
At West Ham, Cole was a protagonist, a instigator, an inspiration, club captain at the age of 21 and seemingly destined for great things. Now, with the best part of his career behind him, can he seriously claim to have fully delivered on that once-potent aptitude?
On paper Cole has achieved almost all there is to achieve in the domestic game, the league and cup medals are all there tucked safely under his belt, but it’s hard to escape the fact that he has never really risen to the upper echelons of his profession and that his career has been on the gradual slide (save the odd upward anomaly) for a good couple of seasons now.
However, whilst Cole has found himself relegated to the fringes of both his club and national team for the past two years, his stock has never significantly fallen – perhaps best highlighted by the multi-club clamour to secure his signature upon his decision to walk out of Stamford Bridge as a free-agent.
Herein lies the Joe Cole paradox, i.e. for all his disappointing foibles he is still the nation’s prodigal son, despite being less than four months away from his 29th birthday – the same old dormant promise still lingers.
With his advancing years in mind, many are viewing his move to Liverpool as the last throw of his career dice – and with good reason.
The four-year contract he’s signed at Anfield will tie him to the club (in theory) until the age of 32, by which time his peak will have most definitely have passed – if it still to come at all, although for the time being there is still ample of opportunity for a long-overdue resurgence.
Both Cole as an individual and Liverpool as a club are passing through fallow, transitory periods and the plight of each reflects parallels of the other – so, to an outsider looking in, it looks as though the stage is being set for a mutual revival.
On the surface it looks like a tailor-made marriage but, as I’ve stated before, to treat the signing of one technically gifted but currently dormant player as some kind of messianic revelation is short-sighted at best.
That said, if Cole is to be finally given the prominent berth he needs to fully deliver on that ever-latent potential, and Liverpool serve to bolster his needs with the addition (or the emergence) of some equally talented foils then the future does indeed look rosy for both parties – although it wouldn’t be the first time I’ve misplaced my confidence in either.