Cole goes down Anfield road
Midfielder opts for Reds despite concerns over Gerrard and Torres
JOE COLE yesterday agreed a four-year deal worth £90,000 a week with Liverpool, despite failing to receive assurances from the club that Steven Gerrard and Fernando Torres would not be sold this summer.
Cole (28) chose Liverpool ahead of Arsenal and Tottenham after prolonged conversations with manager Roy Hodgson and managing director Christian Purslow.
It is understood the question of whether Gerrard and Torres would still be at the club next season was raised during negotiations and the club were unable to give guarantees that they would remain at the club. Real Madrid were interested in Gerrard, although that has cooled, while Chelsea remain keen to sign Torres.
However, despite the uncertainty concerning Liverpool's two biggest stars, Cole decided his future lay at Anfield and he joins on a free transfer from Chelsea, where his contract ran out after seven seasons at the club.
Liverpool were the only club to meet Cole's wage demands, but the deal is still being seen as a major coup for Hodgson, who replaced Rafa Benitez as manager earlier this month.
The club felt Cole might be reluctant to move away from London, having spent his entire career in the capital with West Ham and Chelsea. He also has recently had his first child with wife Carly, another reason perhaps for staying close to his roots.
Yet Cole has turned his back on London, and on Champions League football with either Arsenal or Tottenham, to switch to Anfield.
Although the financial terms were important to him, it is understood that footballing considerations were the primary reason Cole chose Liverpool.
His main aim was to find a club where he felt his talent would be given the best chance to flourish, and Cole believed that there would be fewer first-team opportunities at Tottenham and Arsenal.
Having won many trophies with Chelsea, the most important thing for Cole is to be able to play on a regular basis.
The key element has been the involvement of Hodgson, who has promised the England midfielder he will have a fundamental role to play in his new team.
Cole will undergo a medical in the next 48 hours before joining his team-mates for pre-season training next week.
The England international joins Liverpool with Yossi Benayoun having gone the other way last month. Benayoun, who at 30 is two years older than Cole, signed for Chelsea for £5m to replace him.
At face value it would appear that Liverpool have pulled off a brilliant deal -- effectively trading Benayoun for Cole plus £5m. Chelsea, however, can point to the reduction in wages as off-setting the transfer fee, as Benayoun is paid about £55,000 a week.
Liverpool announced the signing with a brief statement at lunchtime yesterday on their website. It read: "Liverpool FC are delighted to confirm the signing of Joe Cole on a four-year deal. The England midfielder has agreed personal terms with the Reds and will undergo a medical in the next 48 hours."
Former Liverpool players queued up to toast the acquisition of Cole from under the noses of Tottenham and Arsenal.
Phil Thompson said: "I would have liked Benayoun to have stayed. He was a really good player but I tell you what, if I had a choice between Cole and Benayoun, I'd take Joe Cole every time."
Thompson hoped the news might make Torres, Gerrard and Javier Mascherano think again about possibly leaving.
"I think the arrival of Joe Cole will tell them that all is not lost and Liverpool is still a big football club," he added.
Ian Rush said: "I think this sends a sign out to Liverpool supporters that the club do mean business. It's a fantastic buy. When you look at what we've got attacking wise, we've got younger lads but we needed more experience and Cole brings that."
Cole is the first player signed by Hodgson, and joins Serbian international Milan Jovanovic, who was also a free transfer, as one of two new faces at the club.
Hodgson has agreed the sale of the Argentinian international left-back Emiliano Insua to Fiorentina for £5m, while winger Albert Riera is likely to be sold to Olympiakos for £4m.
The Liverpool manager, meanwhile, insists he is not concerned that he has not heard from Mascherano since trying to contact the midfielder last week.
The Argentina captain is still on holiday after his World Cup exploits and is not due to return for pre-season training for another week.
However, having met with Gerrard and Torres to talk about his plans and their futures, Hodgson was keen to speak to Mascherano, who still remains the most likely of the trio to leave this summer.
The 26-year-old has been linked with a reunion with former Reds boss Benitez at Inter Milan and the Spaniard is likely to test Liverpool's resolve to keep hold of the player -- who has suggested on several occasions that his family has failed to settle on Merseyside -- with a £20m bid should he offload Mario Balotelli to Manchester City.
However, Hodgson insisted: "He doesn't need to make contact with me. I've made contact with him telling him I'm looking forward to seeing him in training when he returns from his holiday, but I did make the point in the voicemail that I didn't expect him to contact me.
"I just wanted him to know that I had been in touch and that I was thinking of him. I didn't ask him to call me back. I don't have a lot to say to him, to be honest, other than 'welcome back'."
With Insua's transfer to Fiorentina nearing completion, Hodgson is keen to find a replacement as soon as possible. The Argentinian's departure, combined with the release of Fabio Aurelio at the end of last season, means the club do not have a recognised left-back.
"We are short and that is going to be one of the priorities," added Hodgson. "We need to find a replacement for Emiliano and Fabio. That is one job we will have to do.
"As far as we understand, the deal (for Insua) has been completed between the clubs and his agent is sorting out personal terms.
"Maybe it was the right time for him to move on."
With Hodgson acknowledging there needs to be more progress from the club's academy to the first team, as well as the need to have greater English representation in his squad, Insua's departure could create an opportunity for teenager Jack Robinson.
The 16-year-old was given his Premier League debut by Benitez in the final match of last season at Hull and he has flown to the club's Switzerland training camp after recovering from injury. (© Independent News Service)