Aston Villa latest: Benteke 'one of Europe's best', Cole reveals big offers

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Aston Villa playmaker Joe Cole has revealed that he turned down big-money offers from abroad this summer to keep his Premier League career alive.

The 34-year-old scored in his first Premier League start for Villa in Saturday's 1-1 draw at Burnley, having overcome early season injury problems, but could have just as easily been soaking up the sun in the Middle East on the afternoon instead.

“This is what it’s all about, playing in the Premier League,” he was quoted in the Birmingham Mail.

“I could have gone and filled my pockets, and that’s not a criticism of the players who do that because it’s a short career and we’re not really qualified to do anything else after football.

“I’ve been lucky enough and the fire still burns for me.

“I just want to play. I enjoy it. I prefer to be in Burnley at Turf Moor than playing in the Middle East somewhere in 100 degrees. You know what I mean? It’s a proper game.”

Arriving on a free transfer this June, the former Chelsea and Liverpool man has also earned praise from manager Paul Lambert, who believes he can make a big impact for the club moving forward if he keeps himself fit.

"I said to him - 'if only you were five years younger!'" he told the club's official website.

"He was outstanding for us. He's got great enthusiasm for the game and is an absolute top guy.

"He's won everything in the game. Young kids should take a leaf out of his book.

"We've been fortunate to get him here - okay that was his first start because he's been injured - but if Joe can keep fit and carry on doing what he's doing - even if it's for an hour or 70 minutes or so - he will be great for us."

Lambert is set to receive another boost for Tuesday's trip to Crystal Palace, with Christian Benteke available after serving a three-match ban for his red card against Tottenham Hotspur last month.

The Belgian international has made only four appearances so far this season after recovering from the Achilles injury suffered last April, with Villa scoring just seven goals in 13 league games, but the boss believes they will be buoyed by the return of one of Europe's best strikers.

"In my own opinion, when he's on his game I think he's one of the best in Europe, let alone in Britain," he told Sky Sports. "I've seen some brilliant strikers in my time and, when that guy's on his game, he's certainly up there. So that's a massive boost to us.

"I think his performance against Spurs indicated that he was getting back [to full match-fitness]. He's still going to be match-fitness down because he didn't play for a number of months, but against Spurs I thought he was fantastic for us.

"He's a top player and if he keeps progressing the way he's going then we'll see where his career goes."

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