With Spurs having moved into pole position and after manager Harry Redknapp has openly confirmed that he has held preliminary talks with the England international over the past few days, one of Roy Hodgson’s first moves as Liverpool manager must be to follow suit and step up the club’s interest in the player to something approaching concrete rather than the rumour and conjecture we’ve all been subjected to the past few weeks.
The main problems facing Liverpool are well known to every man and his dog by now, the issue over new owners, the new stadium and the respective futures of messrs Gerrard, Torres and Mascherano are all of paramount importance, and whilst these all obviously and quite understandably remain of top priority, the issue of the playing staff and the reinvestment that is needed must not go unnoticed, no matter how cheaply it needs to be done.
The figures being bandied about in the press at the moment all point towards Hodgson having a transfer kitty in excess of £15m to spend, which may be somewhat buoyed by the departure of Yossi Benayoun to fierce rivals Chelsea for roughly £6m this week.
It was telling that in the press conference presenting Hodgson as the new Liverpool manager, that Chairman Martin Broughton pointed out that Hodgson’s qualities were what were needed in the current climate, and that he had been appointed ‘to steady the ship’ and it’s telling that he’s only been offered a two-year deal. He’s seen by most as a necessity for the problems that lay ahead for the club and his CV does show that he’s able to deal with the challenges that await him – namely uncertainty, unenviable odds and the ability to work within a budget.
This bring us to the issue of Joe Cole future, the mercurial winger capable of providing a spark out of nothing, something the Anfield outfit have long since sought after with numerous costly purchases to little or no lasting effect, with only really the departing Benayoun capable in this respect.
Cole labelled the reasons for his rather acrimonious departure from Chelsea as being ‘politically motivated’ and that it has nothing to do with manager Carlo Ancelotti or the fact that he had become a relatively peripheral figure since returning from injury under his tenure.
Man Utd have already, and rather surprisingly considering that Cole would seem to be a useful player to have about Old Trafford and is available on a free transfer, ruled themselves out of the running for his signature. Arsenal’s interest has been lukewarm and ‘Arry has done little but state on a number of occasions his strong interest, which to his credit he is at least following up now.
The assumption has always been made that Cole desires Champions League football above all else and that his wages demands are astronomical. The Champions League is obviously the pinnacle of European football and a place where any right minded player would wish to ply their trade, but please forgive me, it must be the cynic in me, but at the moment at least, Spurs have yet to fully qualify for the group stages and they may even have to negotiate a tricky tie to get to that stage before the champagne can truly be popped.
This would go some way to at least understanding the patience and unfamiliar fiscal prudence currently on display this summer down at White Hart Lane and whilst last season’s fourth place was a momentous achievement for the club, unless they finish it off, then all of last term’s hard work will have been undone and they will play their season out in the second-tier Europa League where Liverpool will find themselves next season.
One trump card that Spurs do possess is the fact that they are London-based and with a new sprog in tow, the likelihood of Cole being willing to uproot his family all the way to the North-West would present quite a bold move on more fronts than just a football one and a major stumbling block.
Liverpool do remain a big club despite their troubles, and the prospect of playing with the likes of Torres and Gerrard, should Hodgson be able to secure assurances of their loyalty to the club for the upcoming season, could be a deciding factor in Cole’s decision.
Like I conceded earlier, Spurs obviously remain the frontrunners and the fact that a reunion with Redknapp, the geographical location of the club and the fact that he’d be joining a growing team on the brink of Champions League football make them strong favourites and a salivating prospect for any footballer looking for a rebirth.
But Hodgson will do well to follow up the rumours with some strong interest, for whilst it may be a long shot at the moment, it’s an avenue worth exploring and would go some way at least to showing the fans that whilst testing times undoubtedly lay ahead, Liverpool have not quite yet lost every semblance of ambition that they once possessed.
It would signal a statement of intent of sorts and would also be in keeping with the new manager’s intention that the club need to buy British for the future to keep in line with UEFA and Premiership rules – luckily for Hodgson, a deal for Cole presents a very real possibility and one that he’d be mad to ignore.
Written By James McManus