Earlier in the week Ashley Cole brought down the curtain on his 20-year career, which saw the former Arsenal and Chelsea defender win numerous honours and represent England at five major tournaments.
But despite being regarded by many as the best left back his country has ever produced, there seemed to be little fanfare after he announced his decision.
I’m in no doubt his achievements should be recognised more. The term ‘world-class’ can be bandied around at times a little cheaply, but Cole firmly belongs in this bracket.
After starting out as a striker, Cole was moved to left back by Arsene Wenger, who handed him his debut in 1999. He quickly established himself as a mainstay in the team, winning two Premier League titles with the Gunners.
After an acrimonious transfer to London rivals Chelsea in 2006, the trophies kept piling in. Cole has won the FA Cup a record seven times, more than any other player in the competition’s history. There is a UEFA Champions League winner’s medal among his collection too, after that famous night in Munich for the Blues.
Cole was awarded 107 England caps, placing him sixth on the all-time appearance list. He represented the Three Lions with distinction.
Their 2006 World Cup quarter-final exit against Portugal will probably be remembered for Wayne Rooney’s stamp and subsequent red card, plus another spot kick failure. But in that game, Cole kept the shackles on Cristiano Ronaldo throughout. In fact, CR7 has stated Cole is the toughest opponent he has faced.
High praise indeed.
Perhaps, when in his pomp, the full back position was not held in the esteem it is today. In recent seasons the likes of Benjamin Mendy, Kyle Walker and now Arron Wan-Bissaka have all moved for in excess of £50m. Cole in his prime would certainly have commanded far more if he made the move today.
His transfer to Chelsea was a protracted affair, Cole and his agent both being fined for illegal contact. Of course there was his infamous quote ‘of nearly swerving off the road’ when being informed that Arsenal were only offering him the measly sum of £55,000 a week!
That perceived arrogance did not endear Ashley to the general public. Nor did some of the salacious headlines that have dogged him throughout the years. His private life though is of course exactly that, and he is entitled to live it without having to please sections of the English press.
Perhaps some of this goes some way to explaining his relatively unheralded status. His persona built in the gargantuan media outweighing his brilliance and consistency on the football pitch.
Cole hopes to make his next move into the world of coaching. Perhaps Ashley can write his next chapter without the shadow of his ‘celebrity’ hanging over him.