Ashley Cole’s arrival in Rome is the latest in a wave of older Premier League players heading to Italy. Sam Lewis expresses his concern.
Although the ink is still drying and the Press conference is yet to take place, it will be rather inevitable to read and hear the first words new Roma signing Ashley Cole will say upon his announcement, barring some catastrophic PR disaster.
‘Excited to be part of this project’, is a phrase that will nestle comfortably among new player hyperbole that Cole will probably include, alongside hastily researched mutterings about Roman history and the intention to ‘win trophies’, and how likely that proposition is for the former England full-back at his new home.
However, the specifics of that likelihood are rather immaterial. For all the shiny grins had between Lupi officials and the former Chelsea defender, it’s probably not the decent odds on Roma winning the Scudetto in 2015 that drew the man once nicknamed ‘Cashley’ to the Italian capital. It might have something to do with the reported €5m a year he stands to earn now he’s there.
It’s hard to criticise Cole - it’s a lot of money to be offered - especially if you’re unemployed like the Englishman was. It is however, a rather large sum for a club in a widely cash strapped league to offer a 33-year-old coming off his least impressive season in over a decade.
Cole’s arrival is the newest in a recent trend, joining former Manchester United captain and 32-year-old Nemanja Vidic in the transformation from free agent in England to well-paid in Italy. Patrice Evra, though still under contract at Old Trafford, is expected to follow to Juventus.
This aspect aside, though, Ashley Cole does fill a gap for Rudi Garcia and his Roma side, offering experience and a much more reassuring presence than the revolving door of full-backs that have paraded down the left-flank for the Giallorossi since John Arne Riise left the club in 2011. Neither one of Dodo or Federico Balzaretti have ability that even remotely resembles Cole on form, who was arguably the world’s best in his position as recently as 2012.
That said, the move represents a somewhat concerning transfer strategy on the whole, when the context of the League is taken into account. Provided Evra begins next season in Turin - as is largely expected - three of Italy’ biggest sides will have acquired three players who were cast aside by Premier League clubs.
Be it injury, poor form, money or pragmatism on the part of these three players’ English employers, the fact remains that they have ended long Premier League careers, ones that perhaps could’ve been extended in different circumstances. As a result of those snubs, Serie A is picking up the pieces.
Bar the occasional exception in recent years like Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Gonzalo Higuain, Serie A is now rarely the place where stars spend the best years of their athletic lives. It appears that there is a growing pattern that the peninsula is the place for the still-proud veteran, a respectable medium between the manic life of a Premier League footballer and the well-rewarded but incredibly dull professional existence in places like China, Australia, America or the United Arab Emirates.
It was once the other way round, the likes of Fabrizio Ravanelli, Gianluca Vialli and Ruud Gullit enjoying English holidays after a testing career in Calcio. The shift is notable, and concerning.