LA Galaxy boss Bruce Arena admits signing Ashley Cole is a risk, but one worth taking

Ashley Cole

The former Arsenal and Chelsea defender has linked up with ex-England teammate Steven Gerrard at the MLS club.

LA Galaxy head coach Bruce Arena has defended the signing of Ashley Cole, insisting to the club’s official website that the ex-England international can be “one of the better left-backs” in MLS.

Cole, who left Roma by mutual consent last week, joins the Galaxy after a disappointing 18-month spell in Serie A which saw him make just 16 total appearances for i Giallorossi.

The 35-yar-old defender’s displays in Italy were roundly criticised by both fans and the media, while he has failed to feature in a first-team game since last March after falling out of favour at the Stadio Olimpico.

His reported salary of around £210,000-per-year looks relatively reasonable for a player with such a long list of career achievement, but the three-time Premier League winner’s age and recent struggles suggest that there is still a fair amount of risk attached to the deal.

Not only that, but his past comments about MLS have also led to plenty of criticism of his signing and questions about his commitment.

Back in the summer of 2014, the veteran left-back acknowledged that he had received several offers from the US before joining Roma on a free transfer but told reporters that he was “not ready to just sit on a beach”, before later taking to Twitter to further belittle the league.

His remarks saw him come in for widespread criticism from a host of figures, including Liverpool legend and former New England Revolution head coach Steve Nicol, and the resentment still lingers 18 months later.

Arena himself admitted that Cole's signing is a gamble but insisted that the former Arsenal and Chelsea man is 100 percent motivated to prove he can still perform at the top level.

“I think that he’s a good addition to our team, but only time will tell,” the former US national team boss told LAGalaxy.com. “Whether you think it’s a risk or a gamble, these are the risks and gambles that you take. There is a real upside of having Ashley Cole with the LA Galaxy.

“Ashley Cole has a great history. We know that doesn’t necessarily translate on the field when you come to MLS but my interactions over the last couple of months show me that he’s a player that has a strong desire to play here in Los Angeles.

“He’s very fit and has a burning desire to get back on the field and prove to people that he can still play. I have a hard time believing that he won’t be one of the better left backs in our league.”

Cole is not the only European defender to join the Galaxy this week, as 32-year-old Belgium international Jelle van Damme also arrived from Standard Liege just 24 hours earlier.

They may not be done spending there either, as club president Chris Klein recently admitted that AC Milan midfielder Nigel de Jong is a potential option to replace the departed Juninho, who was sold to Mexican side Club Tijuana last month after helping the team win three MLS Cup titles over the past five seasons.

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