Can ex-England star rejuvenate Aston Villa?

Joe Cole Liverpool

Aston Villa are verging on signing Joe Cole on a free transfer - but is the injury-prone playmaker worth the risk?

According to multiple online sources including the Daily Mail, 32-year-old Joe Cole is close to signing a two-year contract with Aston Villa.

All that stands in the way of Cole having another chance at top-flight football is a medical, and if you know the Englishman's history with injuries that might not be as straightforward as first thought.

After his second spell with boyhood club West Ham ended with him being released, it was thought that Joe Cole would see out his playing days in the MLS like his England compatriot Jermaine Defoe. A switch to Aston Villa has certainly taken many by surprise, but provided the deal goes through the midland club will be Joe Cole's fourth Premier League side.

QPR were allegedly interested in securing the services of the ex-England international, and with Harry Redknapp at their helm a move to Loftus Road could have been a real prospect Cole. Redknapp brought Cole through the youth ranks at West Ham and gave him his first team debut in 1999.

Cole, capped 56 times by England, struggled to reach the glorious heights of yesteryear after his fairytale return to Upton Park in January 2013. He claimed being played out-of-position and niggling hamstring and groin injuries were behind his return of just five goals and three assists in 40 appearances for the Hammers.

Villa manager Paul Lambert must feel Cole has a lot to contribute to the Premier League if he is willing to risk a sizeable wage and 2-year deal on a player with a history of long-term injuries. Villa's youthful squad narrowly avoided relegation last season, but with the addition of Philippe Senderos, 29, and Joe Cole, 32, it seems Lambert is intent on adding experience to his young team.

Playing behind the striker could be the position in which Cole sees out his career; with his injuries and age his legs aren't what they used to be, and playing out wide like he did with West Ham is a waste of his playmaking abilities. A fully fit Joe Cole could provide the service that Christian Benteke and co were desperately lacking last season.

The Villans have finished 15th in the past two seasons and it's unlikely their fans will settle for another relegation dogfight next season. Provided his medical goes without a hiccup it's probable that Villa will be Joe Cole's last Premier League club, so he'll almost certainly want to see his top flight days out on a high.

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