No English footballer since Paul Gascoigne has displayed such a dazzling array of trickery as Joe Cole. The Chelsea and England midfielder was a celebrated child prodigy and has now blossomed into one of the most exciting and creative players in Europe. Over the last few years he has also added an element of steel to his game, combining work rate with his natural talent to ensure he is one of the first names to be pencilled onto the team sheet for both club and country.
As a schoolboy Cole caught the eye of a host of clubs, but it was West Ham who secured his services and he made his debut for the Hammers at 17. He quickly became a hero among West Ham fans and was given the captain's armband in January 2003 when just 21. Later that year he moved to Chelsea for £6.6 million as part of the Roman Abramovich revolution. Despite massive competition, Cole forced himself into the starting line-up with a raft of impressive performances and crucial goals.
Cole was a star of the Chelsea side in 2004-05 that clinched the league title for the first time in 50 years, scoring 10 goals in the process. He continued to improve and impress, scoring the title-clinching goal against Manchester United in 2006 and earning a place in the PFA's team of the season. At the end of that season he signed an extended contract for the Blues. Cole has overcome injuries and earned the respect of the fans at Stamford Bridge for his skill, determination and loyalty.
Joe Cole has had to overcome the impression that he is a luxury player, an impression that limited his early appearances for England. His desire to prove himself forced England's bosses to sit up and take notice and his performances during the 2006 World Cup sealed his place in the squad. One of the greatest goals of that tournament was Cole's amazing long range volley in 2-2 draw with Sweden. He has since spent spells at Liverpool and Lille and now he's back at Anfield will be looking to prove he still has what it takes.