This week Joe Cole became Aston Villa’s second signing of the summer. The former England international joins Philippe Senderos at Villa Park as Paul Lambert tries to add some experience to a young squad. The problem for Villa is that the for Chelsea and Liverpool midfielders career has been over for the last two seasons. Although he is only 32, this is a player that is far beyond his prime, and it will be unlikely if he can add anything to Villa’s survival chances this season.
Three years ago the then 29-year-old Cole made a surprising move to French side Lille OSC. He had failed to make an impact at Liverpool so he joined the Ligue 1 side on loan to get some well needed playing time.
It started as well as Cole could have hoped. He came on as a substitute against Saint-Etienne, beat three men before setting up Ludovic Obraniak for Lille’s third in a 3-1 win. It really looked like Cole could have found his spiritual home.
The reality is that after 32 appearances, his performances were just around the average mark. For a player in Cole’s position he should have contributed more than four goals and three assists. When you look at the calibre of players he had around him—Eden Hazard, Dimitri Payet and Moussa Sow—the numbers he provided just weren’t good enough.
The UK press boosted his performances by adding on the hat-trick he scored about a side from France’s fifth division CFA 2, a team full of part-time players. Lille won the game 6-0.
Most of Cole’s starts came during a period when Dimitri Payet was recovering from knee surgery, but once the French winger returned to full fitness, Cole struggled to get himself into the team.
Coach Rudi Garcia was keen on adding Cole to his squad permanently, but as a squad player. The Englishman had a great attitude and was well liked by the squad, he brought experience and a new dimension to training, but his abilities on the pitch were mostly lacking.
With his extortionate wage demands there was no way Lille could bring him in permanently. His return to West Ham showed the deterioration more, only managing 31 league appearances in two seasons.
Paul Lambert will be hoping that Cole can add experience and a bit of guile to his midfield next season, but in reality his best days are far behind him and its leadership and knowledge at best that Cole can give this young Villa side.