Time for Liverpool to ditch him in January?

Liverpool midfielder Joe ColeLiverpool midfielder Joe Cole appears to be attracting interest from French outfit Lille once more after a successful loan spell there last term, but should Brendan Rodgers consider letting him go given the paucity of options within his squad or is the fallen former England star simply destined to never realise his potential on Merseyside?

The French club’s boss Rudi Garcia told RMC this week, hinting at a future move for Cole: “Joe is not only a great person, but also a great footballer. But financially it was not possible to save him. This can be prohibitive for the return of Joe to Lille. Sportingly and humanly, I’d love to see him back.”

While something may have been lost in translation, that Garcia is supposed to have said ‘save him’ couldn’t be closer to the truth after falling even further down the pecking order since returning to Liverpool in the summer and Rodgers criticism of his display against Swansea in the 3-1 defeat at home in the Capital One Cup marks his lowest point since arriving at the club.

It’s worth remembering that Cole is still just 30 years of age and as such should be seen as one of the senior members of the squad at Anfield, but he’s currently sat behind teenagers Raheem Sterling and Suso in terms of a first-team place, while Stewart Downing is quickly becoming Rodgers go-to attacking substitute.

Rodgers commented on Cole’s performance against Swansea: “Joe Cole had an opportunity, the club has invested an astronomical sum of money in a talented player and he has to seize his opportunities. It [Liverpool’s approach] was too slow, it just was not what I would expect from a team I had set up to be dynamic so I think it was a difficult night for him.” While it may have been a tad on the harsh side, for the whole team underperformed that evening, that he was singled out points to a fractious relationship similar to the one that Rodgers shares with Downing.

The senior set-up currently just has 19 players in it and the manager has talked about the need to invest in January and that it’s unlikely that many people will be leaving in the opposite direction, but Cole’s struggles, coupled with his ‘astronomical’ wages makes him an ideal candidate to shift on.

It was reported at the time of his move to Lille that Liverpool were willing to pay as much as 60% of Cole’s £100,000 per week wages such was their insistence on getting him some regular football. However, his prospects appeared to improve in the summer after the departures of Dirk Kuyt, Maxi Rodriguez and Craig Bellamy all left for various reasons and the lack of attacking depth, with the side overly-reliant on Luis Suarez at present is clear for all to see as a result.

On the face of it, a lack of depth and a new manager should all point to more playing time for Cole, who lest we forget, has three Premier League winner’s medals, three FA Cup winner’s medals, and 56 England caps to his name. Yet he’s struggled with injury and two successive hamstring strains have disrupted his season so far.

When looking at Rodgers preferred system, the 4-3-3 formation would seem to lend itself to Cole’s talents – an appreciation of working the ball around in tight spaces, the ability to glide past a man in the middle of the park and the vision to spot a pass in the final third. Of course, these were the characteristics which he used to be lauded for, but weight and form issues have dogged his time at Liverpool.

Balancing the books has been a major concern of FSG’s for some time now and was the motivating factor behind allowing the fringe trio of Bellamy, Kuyt and Maxi to all leave the club. The suspicion that Cole’s strong ties to previous club Chelsea, coupled with the realisation that the club are getting a particularly bum deal considering their outlay on the midfielder has always meant he’s not been highly regarded on the terraces and remains something of an easy target for the boo boys, so it’s not as if there would be much opposition from either side at his departure.

Any movement out of the club is entirely dependent on how much Rodgers has to spend, with a figure around the £10m mark mooted for January business, but his wages and his lack of playing time only point to a role which will become even more marginalised in the future and it’s hard to see a way back for him at Liverpool now.

Should Liverpool let Joe Cole leave in January? Or should they retain his service and grant him a more prominent role?

You can follow me on Twitter @JamesMcManus1

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