Joe Cole has revealed that he regrets joining Liverpool from Chelsea in 2010, admitting a move to Tottenham Hotspur might have made more sense at the time. In hindsight, the former England star most wishes he’d actually taken his career abroad to sunnier climes instead.
Cole had been one of the key players in Jose Mourinho’s Chelsea side that won back-to-back Premier League titles in 2005 and 2006, as well as emerging as a starter for England.
But he missed a significant chunk of 2008/09 with a long-term knee injury, as well as the start of 2009/10, which he has now explained led to the end of his time at Chelsea as contract negotiations stalled.
Unable to fully recover, he never returned to his former level and – a decent loan spell at Lille aside – spells at West Ham United and Aston Villa failed to kickstart things.
Cole’s last game in England was for Coventry City in League One, aged 34 in 2016, before joining Florida-based Tampa Bay Rowdies of the NASL – generally thought of as America’s second tier at the time – and experiencing an improvement in his injured knee due to the warm climate made him believe he should have pursued a move to La Liga or a southern Serie A club instead of choosing Liverpool.
“I done my knee [in January 2009] and that was probably the start of the end of my career because I was never the same player after that. I done everything, ACL, PCL, MCL, and I was out for 11 months,” Cole explained on the latest episode of John Obi Mikel’s The Obi One Podcast.
Contract talks with Chelsea had been underway before the injury and he admitted he could see why the club “pulled back from negotiations…Chelsea were right, from a business perspective”.
Early in 2010, Cole’s chance to get some more game time, by now playing under new boss Carlo Ancelotti, came when several players departing for the Africa Cup of Nations. He did enough to command a regular place in the team and Chelsea put a new contract offer on the table.
“I played every game, six, seven or eight games in a row, played really well and then they started, ‘We can offer you this new contract.’ It wasn’t at what it was before,” he explained.
“My ego got involved a little bit and football was more of a struggle. I would play, knee would blow up. I couldn’t do certain things that I used to be able to do. I needed an ice pack, I was in a lot of pain… it’s very rare you get back to where you were.”
Cole went on to play and score in a title deciding-win against Manchester United at Old Trafford, but a back injury meant he was then unable to train for a few days, admitting he “really wrecked myself.”
He added: “It got to the end of the season…my body was just failing me.”
By this time, Chelsea had already stopped further negotiations and Cole, who had been unable to permanently displace Florent Malouda or Salomon Kalou wound up making a major career decision.
“Something subconsciously clicked and I thought to myself, ‘I’m never going to get [back] to the player I was. I’ve got to leave.’ Because I don’t want to finish my Chelsea career, just sitting there on the injury table,” the now 42-year-old said.
“I had a choice between Liverpool or Spurs because Arsenal pulled out and I just couldn’t go to Spurs. I just couldn’t go. It would have made sense, Harry Redknapp was the manager, they had a good team, I lived in London, half my pals are Spurs fans. I just couldn’t do it.
“My daughter was just born and Liverpool is a great club. It didn’t work for me there but it is a fantastic club, an institution globally. But if I could have my time again, I would probably [say] no and I’d have gone abroad, somewhere hot, because playing in the heat actually helped my knee. After that I went to Liverpool, West Ham and Villa. I had a good season in France [at Lille], but with my knee, I was just managing my injuries. Managing to still play, play well sometimes but never really consistently like I had been. I never played for England again after 2010.
“Then when I went to America [with Tampa Bay Rowdies], it was like a miracle. Living in the sun, my knee was like 60-70%. It’s still not right now but I could still play. It was like a miracle. If I could have hindsight, I would have gone abroad somewhere hot, maybe Spain or southern Italy somewhere, and I think I could have played at the top level for a little bit longer.”
What we know
- Joe Cole joined Liverpool are deciding to leave Chelsea in 2010
- A longstanding knee injury meant he was never at his best at Anfield
- Former England playmaker admits it was the wrong choice in hindsight.