Joe Cole is still held in the highest regard at Stamford Bridge.
While the former England star never quite hit the heights everyone thought he could, Cole twisted and turned his way into Chelsea hearts, winning Player of the Year in 2008.
But arguably Cole’s largest contribution to the club came 18 months after he left the London side.
While on loan from Liverpool at French club Lille, Cole came across a 20-year-old who he claimed was ‘the best I’ve ever played with.’
High praise from a man who has shared a dressing room with Wayne Rooney, Didier Drogba, and Steven Gerrard to name a few.
So who was this young man that Cole held in such high regard? It was Eden Hazard.
In a Lille side packed with young talent like Dimitri Payet, Idrissa Gueye and Lucas Digne on the books that season, it was Hazard that stood out to Cole.
At the time Man United, Man City and Chelsea were all desperate to get the Belgian’s signature.
We all know that Hazard chose Chelsea, but it was Joe Cole’s influence which swung the pendulum towards SW6.
Cole was convinced of his talent, so when he got the call from Chelsea asking about young Hazard, the Londoner told his former club that he was the most talented he’d ever seen.
Chelsea were struggling during the 2011/2012 season, lingering in sixth place following a torrid first half to the season with Andre Villas-Boas at the helm.
It took a miraculous Champions League triumph to secure entry to the competition the following year – a basic requirement if they wanted Hazard.
So maybe it is Cole and the match winner in the final, Didier Drogba, who are responsible for getting the magician to choose London over Manchester.
Either way, Cole’s role in signing the man who now dons his number 10 jersey cannot be overlooked.
Happy retirement, Joe. Or should we say, bonne retraite.
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