The next chapter of the saga of Chelsea's tapping up of Ashley Cole looks set to be an independent commission. The decision is yet to be formally reached, but all sources are predicting it following the results of the initial inquiry: the Premier League's lawyer Nick Fitzpatrick is recommending that Chelsea do have a case to answer.|
The way things have been panning out, it's hard not to wonder if the 2 sides have contrived to put the blame on a third party.
As you've probably read by now, Cole's story is that he and his agent Jonathan Barnett were meeting with continental agent Pini Zahavi, to discuss the possibility of a move to a big Italian or Spanish club, and the 2 of them were surprised by the appearance after 5 minutes of Mourinho and Kenyon. Cole insists that he wanted to leave but Mourinho quickly got his pitch in, offering squillions/week (and adding that Cole and Gerrard were his targets and he'd already landed the latter). Cole says he replied by saying that he wouldn't sign for any English club but Arsenal.
Chelsea's story is different, in that they say that Cole and Barrett approached them and that after talking to Cole they told him they didn't need him. But there is some room for manoeuvre, because both sides can blame Zahavi for setting it up, both can claim that he conned them, and the commission won't be able to force Zahavi to give evidence because his agent's registration is in Israel rather than the UK.
Ok, so let's deal with Chelsea first: even if it were true that they were approached by Cole, this does not mean that they weren't in breach of the rules. If approached by a player, they are supposed to get that player's club's permission to speak to them. They might try to shove some of the blame onto Zahavi, but is anyone going to believe that Kenyon was as naive as he's claiming? We think not, and trust that Chelsea will be fined at the very least (and maybe warned that points will be docked for future transgressions - can't see points being deducted straight off). I'm just surprised they didn't take the same route as Cole and claim that they were there to see Zahavi to discuss certain players, without realising that one of them would actually be there. It's not as if they didn't have time to come up with a good story between their initial denial of any meeting and their subsequent recovery from that bout of amnesia.
But at the end of the day they've got more than enough cash (and points) to cope with any such penalty. What concerns Arsenal fans more is Ashley Cole.
I think we've all liked to see Ashley Cole, possibly more than any other member of the current squad, as a true Arsenal man. So it's a real blow if we have to believe that he wants to leave. The rumour is that his agent was promised a raise to £80,000/week (some sources say £60,000) by David Dein before xmas, but that the board decided that was too much and so Cole started to consider his options. Perhaps he just felt that he was being taken for granted by Arsenal and wanted to put some pressure on. That would be understandable, but this has now gone a bit too far, and Ashley's public statements have gone not quite far enough. "The squad isn't going to break up", "we want to stay together and win things next season" and that sort of stuff is all very well. But we want to know what you want Ashley. Arsene Wenger has said he wants you to sign a new deal and one day become captain. That still sounds good to us, how about you?
We can only hope that all this nonsense will in the end prove to have simply filled in a news-gap before Cole signs a new contract, and one which recognises that his worth is on a par with our other world-class players.