ENGLAND midfielder Joe Cole’s arrival at Liverpool has more significance than just bolstering Roy Hodgson’s squad as it is a key marker in the battle to keep Steven Gerrard and Fernando Torres.
The former Chelsea star has agreed personal terms on a four-year contract and will undergo a medical over the next 24 hours before the deal is officially concluded.
Cole – heavily linked with Arsenal and Tottenham – will bring some much-needed creativity to a side which was sadly lacking in that department last season when they finished a disappointing seventh in the Barclays Premier League.
However, irrespective of the talents of the 28-year-old – and they are considerable – his signing is seen as a statement of intent by Hodgson.
The former Fulham manager took over from Rafael Benitez at the start of the month but many questioned whether he had the necessary star quality, combined with a lack of Champions League football, to attract the marquee signings required to get the club back on its feet again.
Even before last season had ended, Torres spoke out about the need to bring in four or five quality players while speculation about Gerrard’s future, having again been linked with a move to Real Madrid, began to grow.
Securing the services of Cole, the biggest free transfer available this summer, will go some way to placating Torres while Gerrard will no doubt appreciate playing alongside an England team-mate.
Liverpool’s record goalscorer Ian Rush believes the signing has enhanced Hodgson’s reputation – even before a ball has been kicked.
“Liverpool might not have been successful as we would have liked to have been recently but this shows we can still attract top name players, whether that’s an England international or a foreign international,” he said.
“We’ve got a great new manager in Roy Hodgson and he knows what he wants and he can talk these players into signing for our club. This is the signing supporters wanted and it’s a big boost for them.
“I think this sends a sign out to Liverpool supporters that the club do mean business.”
Former Liverpool coach Phil Thompson believes the signing of Cole can be the catalyst for a “new era” at the club.
“I’m absolutely delighted,” Thompson said.
“We need that player, the catalyst between midfield and attack. It all adds up for me.
“Joe Cole has that bit of character, the can do something out of nothing, he that creative ability that Torres comes alive to, Gerrard too.
“It’s the kind of news all fans wanted. We’ve got thousands of people waiting for season tickets but everyone is going to be renewing them now. Everyone will have Joe Cole’s name on their shirt. It’s the start of a new era, we’ll be looking for more new players and it could be a glorious summer for the fans. They will be delighted.
“I think (Hodgson) has had a chat with Torres, met with Steven Gerrard and he’ll have been saying to them ‘we’ve got a chance of getting Joe Cole’. Buying Joe will tell them all is not lost.”
David Fairclough, a team-mate of Thompson’s in Liverpool sides of the 70s and 80s, was equally enthused by the news.
“It’s excellent news and very positive. It shows they mean business,” he said.
“He’s a player Liverpool fans have always taken to.
“He’s scored goals against us, offered support (to the strikers) and always been a genuine threat. The Liverpool fans have always feared Joe Cole’s threat, I think.
“It’s exciting the club have gone after a really top player.”
Already Liverpool have recruited two established internationals as Cole joins Serbia forward Milan Jovanovic, another free transfer, in boosting the club’s attacking resources.
The positive thing for Hodgson is that they have yet to spend a penny on transfer fees.
That may be a sign of the times for Liverpool, who have a £351 million (€412m) debt and are currently up for sale.
But, although the club will undoubtedly have had to pay Cole the kind of salary – reportedly £90,000 (€105,000) a week – Chelsea were unwilling to agree to, it may be worth it in the long run.
With Yossi Benayoun having moved in the other direction earlier this month for £5.5m (€6.4m), the Reds already appear to be up on the exchange.
Hodgson is now likely to turn is attention to filling a hole at left-back with Emiliano Insua set for a move to Fiorentina and Fabio Aurelio having been released.
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