Cole faces decision over future
Ashley Cole gave a hint of his allegiances for next season, if not where his future lies, after a potential final Chelsea appearance.
The 33-year-old faces a period of change after retiring from England duty when he was informed by Roy Hodgson he would not be going to this summer's World Cup in Brazil.
And after a season on the periphery at Stamford Bridge, Cole is considering his options with his contract expiring imminently.
He captained Chelsea in the 2-1 win at Cardiff that saw the campaign conclude with Jose Mourinho's men four points adrift of Barclays Premier League champions Manchester City.
Reflecting on the season, Cole, speaking before Sunday night's England announcement, told Chelsea TV: "In terms of points it's a good points tally, but of course we fell short and hopefully next season we can push on and win something."
Whether Cole's use of the word "we" was habitual or a hint remains to be seen.
There were tears on a possible Stamford Bridge farewell after the final home game of the season the previous week, but broad smiles after an ovation from the visiting support at the Cardiff City Stadium.
"I've had a good relationship with the fans," added Cole, who has made 337 appearances in eight seasons since his move from Arsenal.
"The last few games have been amazing and the support they gave me was overwhelming.
"They know I try to give my heart and soul for the team every time I play.
"They sing the John Terry and Ashley Cole song a lot. And 'Ashley Cole's won the European Cup'."
Captain Terry and midfielder Frank Lampard are also out of contract this summer, with Mourinho insisting time will be taken to make decisions over the future.
Terry, 33, is in negotiations after a strong showing this season and Lampard, who is 36 in June, is reportedly also contemplating an offer on reduced terms.
Cole, whose durability and pedigree would make him attractive to the world's leading clubs, may opt to move on after making 25 appearances this season.
Cesar Azpilicueta, the Spain full-back, made 43 appearances, many of them at left-back following an injury to Cole in the autumn which saw the England centurion struggle to dislodge his rival.
Mourinho feels one or two signings is all that is needed for him to believe his Chelsea side will be title challengers from day one of next season.
The Portuguese admits, though, that more changes may happen if the likes of Cole see their future elsewhere.
"One thing is fundamental and another thing is what can be additional," Mourinho said.
"The fundamental is we don't need a new spine, we don't need a new structure. The structure is there.
"The fundamental now for us is a couple of players of a certain level to help the team go to a new level because the team and the structure is already there.
"After that the additional - if someone decides to leave then someone has to come.
"Our work in the summer is not a big amount of work."
Andre Schurrle, signed last June from Bayer Leverkusen, finished the season on a high with a goal and an assist, for Fernando Torres to net the winner.
Germany forward Schurrle vowed there would be an individual and collective improvement next term.
He told chelseafc.com: "It was very important to finish well.
"We were almost a winner but this is nothing and I'm sure we'll come back very strong next season.
"I had a few problems to adapt to the league but I think it's normal if you come as a young player from another country.
"I think I can come back even stronger and better next season."
Who is your sportstar of the year?
Vote in the Irish Independent Sport Star Awards and you could win the ultimate sports prize.
Prizes include, tickets to Ireland's against Scotland in the Six Nations, All Ireland football and hurling final tickets and much more.