Bright talent | Joe Cole was a footballing prodigy, but his career of late has been mired with disappointment and a lack of first team opportunities at Liverpool. (Image | Daily Mail)

At the age of 16, Joe Cole was the hottest property in English football, drawing comparisons with the majestic Paul Gascoigne. Now, at 30-years-old, Cole is entering the twilight of his career. It seems as though the coming season could prove to be his most important yet.

Having joined Liverpool on a free transfer in July 2010, Cole failed to produce the form that made him an England regular at Chelsea and West Ham United. Then, upon the advent of Kenny Dalglish at the Liverpool helm, the winger fell out of favour. However, after a successful loan spell at French club Lille OSC, new Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers has given Cole a final chance to prove himself in the Premier League.

After agreeing a four-year deal at Anfield, Cole was unable to justify his lucrative salary, producing a string of mediocre performances and failing to impress the Liverpool faithful. Since then, Cole himself has admitted that he was startled by the pressure of playing for the Merseyside club and that he found it something of a culture shock. It was no surprise, therefore, that Kenny Dalglish sought to move the creative midfielder, who has made 56 England appearances, onto pastures new.

Shafted | The return of the “messiah”, Kenny Dalglish, to Liverpool saw Cole fall almost entirely out of favour. (Image | Metro)

Initially, Cole’s season-long loan move to Ligue 1 outfit Lille OSC was viewed with some bemusement; however, it proved to be an inspired transfer for both Cole and Les Dogues. On his debut, Cole dazzled the A.S Saint-Étienne defence with a superb run, culminating in an assist for Lille’s third goal in a 3-1 victory. Since then, he has not looked back, making 42 appearances, scoring nine goals and winning the admiration of both Lille’s manager and fans. Manager Rudi Garcia said: “We will keep very good memories of the player but also of the man”, while making no attempt to conceal his desire to sign the Englishman on a permanent basis.

To make such an impression on a team that featured Belgian starlet and recent Chelsea signing Eden Hazard was no mean feat. Indeed, Garcia saw Cole as the ideal replacement for the Belgian, declaring: “From a sporting angle we would like to keep him.” In fact, while Dalglish was still in charge, it was reported that talks between the two clubs over a permanent deal for Cole were at an advanced stage.

However, upon the appointment of Brendan Rogers as the new Liverpool manager, Garcia said: “Joe Cole will stay at Liverpool. The new staff has decided to keep him.” Today (15 June), Rogers has confirmed this, telling the official website that he and Cole had met to discuss his future and that both parties were keen for him to return to Merseyside. Rogers said: “He’s obviously gone out to Lille and done very well and he has the opportunity to come back here and show his qualities.” Therefore, it seems that Cole will get his ultimate wish: to remove the most serious blot from his otherwise sterling footballing CV and prove that he is capable of being a success at Liverpool Football Club.

With a rejuvenated sense of confidence and the knowledge that this could well be his last chance, Cole will be a welcome addition to the Liverpool squad. In the absence of captain Steven Gerrard, the increasingly popular Lucas Leiva and recently departed Raul Meireles, the team lacked a player capable of providing both creativity and composure in the midfield this season. Unfortunately for Dalglish, Charlie Adam, Stewart Downing and Jordan Henderson all proved incapable of providing such a service. Joe Cole, however, is more than adept at doing both.

Happier times | Cole faces an uphill battle to return to the England squad, but a good season for the Reds could see him back into the frame. (Image | Sabotage Times)

Therefore, if Cole is serious about reclaiming his place in the England squad and demonstrating his capability of being a success on Merseyside, he will need to stake his claim to a place in a highly-competitive, if vastly-overrated, Liverpool midfield. Having worked with Rogers at Chelsea and knowing the style of play he encourages, Cole will be more than ready to catch the eye of the former Swansea City manager during Liverpool’s pre-season campaign. The real challenge, however, will be to show Rogers that, at the age of 30, he is not just a short-term solution to Liverpool’s problems. If Cole can do this, however, he will not just have Rogers to thank for his second chance. He will owe a debt of thanks to Lille and Garcia, a manager who dragged Cole from the lowest point of his career back to the top level of English football.

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