For 2.5 years I sat across from an Englishman who detested Ashley Cole, who at the time was a left back with Chelsea.
My coworker inevitably would get around to paraphrasing the quotes from Cole’s biography, My Defence, in which the player said he was “trembling with anger” in the summer of 2006 when his English club, Arsenal, offered him 55,000 pounds per week (about $80,000, at today’s exchange rates) instead of the 60,000 pounds per week he wanted.
Cole from that moment on became the English Premier League poster boy for greed, especially after he jumped from the only club he had known, Arsenal, to crosstown rivals Chelsea — which is egregious even by European soccer standards.
And that is the guy the Galaxy is bringing in to play left back, leaving onlookers to wonder if the club believes a 35-year-old player can change his spots and become a good teammate — and not one overwhelmed by a sense of entitlement.
Especially if $80,000 a week in 2006 left him so angry.
Because the Galaxy apparently is going to be giving him $5,800 a week.
Cole is the most controversial of the three additional foreigners the club is bringing in — giving them the option of playing as many as six in the coming Major League Soccer season.
The club already had English midfielder Steven Gerrard, Irish forward Robbie Keane and Mexican forward Giovani dos Santos, and in the past week has added Dutch midfielder Nigel de Jong, 31, and Belgian defender Jelle Van Damme, 32 — as well as Cole.
(Making the Galaxy more Euro-oriented than it has ever been.)
It is understandable that soccer players push for as much money as they can make, given that their careers often are short and can end at any moment.
Cole, however, seemed to touch a nerve with his book, which outlined his salary specifics and with the infamous “trembling with anger” quote.
He would go on to make as much as 200,000 pounds ($290,000) per week (an English soccer payroll thing) when he was with Chelsea, and during that time he often was ranked among the world’s great left backs.
But he began to fade, in his 30s, and Jose Mourinho, the coach who brought him to Chelsea, was fine with releasing him, in the summer of 2014. Cole signed a two-year deal with AS Roma, where he failed to make any sort of impression, appearing in only 11 league games in 1.5 seasons with the Italian side.
Cole’s salary with the Galaxy will be augmented by payments from Roma, at least through the remainder of the Italian season, but from May on he will be getting only his Galaxy salary, which is $300,000 total, according to the Los Angeles Times.
(Oh, and one more Cole bit: When he left Chelsea in 2014 and was rumored to be considering the Galaxy, he told reporters in Italy he was “not ready to relax on a beach yet”. Good to know he thinks of the Galaxy and MLS in that way.)
The club’s experiments with foreign players near the end of their careers has worked out fairly well, especially of late — David Beckham was 36 and 37 when he was part of Galaxy championship clubs, and Keane has been part of three, since 2011, and he is 35.
But it is fair to wonder if the three newcomers, who apparently all are making the MLS maximum of $300,000 per year, will be OK with playing on a team where “designated players” Gerrard, Keane and Dos Santos are thought to make $6.2 million, $4.4 million and $4.1 million, respectively, this season.
And is especially interesting in the case of Cole, who was at the top of the heap not so long ago, and seemed to define his self-worth by his paycheck. (Unless he shows a turnabout in performance, the new salary may be about right, perhaps even generous.)
This could be a great test of the patience and personal skills of Bruce Arena, Galaxy coach and general manager.
Wouldn’t want Cole to be left “trembling” with rage if he is relegated to the bench. My former coworker probably is predicting just that.