Constrained Reds say it aint so Joe

June 23, 2010 Tags: Opinion 22 comments

Manchester United has ruled out a bid for former Chelsea midfielder Joe Cole according to reports yesterday. But is United’s stance due to Sir Alex Ferguson’s reluctance to sign the midfielder or the club’s perilous financial position? Cole, a free agent, reportedly wants a £3 million signing on fee plus more than £100,000 per week.

Chelsea released Cole, 28, after the player failed to agree a new contract with the London club. The midfielder has fallen down the pecking order at Stamford Bridge, not only on the pitch but in the pay scale too. However, with Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich having pumped more than £700 million into the club the Russian is reportedly insistent that the Carlo Ancelotti’s outfit becomes self-sufficient.

The race for Cole’s signature is now between Arsenal and Tottenham, with the player having begun his career at West Ham under Spurs coach Harry Redknapp. Chelsea signed the player for £6.6m in 2003 following West Ham’s relegation from the Premier League.

Cole, who scored 52 times in 396 appearances for Chelsea, has also hit 10 in 54 England caps. But a long-term knee injury ruined much of his season, with the international making 39 appearances for the club.

Tactically Cole offers creativity both from the flanks and central areas. Although predominantly used from the left side of an attacking triumvirate at Chelsea over the past seven seasons, Cole can also operate from central areas. Indeed, Fabio Capello deployed the player in that position during England’s recent friendly against Japan.

Meanwhile Ferguson can call on a plethora of midfield options next season. Paul Scholes, Michael Carrick, Darron Gibson, Anderson and Owen Hargreaves will compete for three central midfield slots. The Scot will also choose from Antonio Valencia, Nani, Park Ji-Sung, Ryan Giggs and potentially Gabriel Obertan in wide areas next season.

But many United supporters will find the club’s stance unusual, with Ferguson long known as an admirer of the attacking midfielder who scored the winning goal for Chelsea at Old Trafford in April. After all, although the Scot has significant numbers of midfielders on his books the shortage of central midfield creativity last season was palpable.

Scholes’ excellent form during the final weeks of the campaign masked a rash of age-induced poor performances during the winter months. Indeed there are question marks hanging over the club’s central midfielders, with Carrick out-of-form, Anderson and Hargreaves injured, Scholes now 35 and Gibson yet to prove his quality at the highest level.

United’s stance leaves fans wondering weather financial constraints have played a part in the club’s decision not to bid for the 28-year-old player. After all, although no transfer fee is due to Chelsea the player will command a significant signing-on bonus plus wages near the top of United’s pay scale.

The club’s £720 million debt has already eaten into Ferguson’s transfer budget, with less than half the cash banked by selling Cristiano Ronaldo last summer spent to date, let alone the £25 million per season transfer budget promised by the Glazers in 2005.

Many analysts believe that the Glazer family will also remove up to £95 million cash from the club’s reserves at some point this summer, with interest on family’s the so-called Payment in Kind (PIK) debt increasing to 16.5 per cent in August. The January bond also enables the family to remove up to 50 per cent of United’s profits on an ongoing basis in addition to the £45 million per season debt interest payable.

Further evidence of pay restrictions at the club come from the failure to offer either Wayne Rooney or Nemanja Vidić a new deal. Officially the Old Trafford hierarchy postponed Rooney’s contract talks until after the World Cup, with the striker looking for a significant pay rise on his £90,000 per week deal that runs to 2012. That Rooney, one of the world’s leading players, does not feature in the top 25 best paid stars in Europe is significant.

While few fans will countenance Rooney’s departure from the club this summer, Vidić’s position is far more precarious. Although the Serbian international has repeatedly said he wants to stay at Old Trafford the club’s failure to match his pay demands is likely to drive the 28-year-old defender out of Manchester. Vidić reportedly wants parity with Rio Ferdinand on £120,000 per week, which is now unlikely the club will meet.

It leaves United supporters wondering weather the club’s failure to land the best talent will now be compounded by significant departures from the playing staff.


gazno77 - June 23, 2010 Reply

I think we should cash in that £1.5m while we still can

John Smith - June 23, 2010 Reply

Why do you assume that the lack of interest in Joe Cole is down to money? Isn’t it more likely that his injuries make him too high risk. After all, he didn’t sign the offer Chelsea put to him because it included a pay-per-play element. If Chelsea’s medical staff didn’t think he was up to it and were covering themselves and ultimately happy to see him leave, why would we be busting a gut to sign him at a salary that would break our existing salary structure? The manager has had enough stick for buying players who are fitness risks, Owen, Hargreaves and Anderson… why would he bring more pain on himself.

If he were on a pay-per-play contract, like Owen, then maybe he’d be worth the gamble. But he won’t accept that.

Hogarth - June 23, 2010 Reply

John Smith … you make far too much sense. I think you ned at least pint of whiskey in you before you comment on these pages. and heaven forbid you should challenge the rabid MUST crew

Alfonso Bedoya - June 24, 2010 Reply

Quality post, that… what a contribution.

xmun - June 23, 2010 Reply

Ok, so when there were rumours that we were in for JC on free, it was concluded that we had to do that because we had no money. Now that there are rumours that the club might not be interested after all, its because the club is in debt. Just in case you haven’t noticed we got the message… don’t like the club’s ownership (just to put it mildly) and you will stop at nothing to see them out.

Bill - June 23, 2010 Reply

If Cole wants £100,000 a week Fergie is right to rule out a move him. That’s extortion, Glazers or no Glazers.

Bill - June 23, 2010 Reply

City are in for Silva so that reduces our options even further!

Ozil is looking class and out of contract end of 2010/11 so price will be lower. Wage demands will be low compared to Cole too.

Realistically though I can’t see us buying at all. Fergie’s man management skills will have to be at their best if we are going finish top 4 and win a cup.

vannailyrooy - June 24, 2010 Reply

Ozil’s a classy player, but given his performances at the WC so far, I expect there’ll be a few other teams in for him, some of which will be able to pay more than we’re able to.

Good points made by John Smith re Cole.

Ed - June 24, 2010 Reply

I’m not sure Joe Cole is the answer from a pure football point of view… he’s not in my top 20 best creative midfielders in Europe. But since when did United give such a toss about ‘value for money’ – since the Glazers arrived., I guess that’s my main point.

To correct one point though – signing Cole on £100,000 / week would not anywhere near “destroy United’s pay structure” but it is too costly for the Glazers – and that should concern fans. In the excellent Soccernomics book there’s compelling evidence that 92 per cent of success is derived not from transfer spending per se, but from wages spent (often linked, although not completely). If United cut back on wages, they cut back on trophies. Fact.

John Smith - June 24, 2010 Reply

Ed, nobody has said £100k. The word is the demand was for £120k basic with £40K in image rights, a 4 year contract and that a large upfront payment in lieu of a transfer fee, rumoured to be one year’s salary or £6m. That WOULD smash United’s salary structure as it’s more than any other player currently. No-one in their right mind would pay Joe Cole more than Rooney or Rio or Berbatov or Nani. He doesn’t deserve it and those lads will be putting in higher wage demands if it happens. Obviously, those figures, if right, were only his agent’s opening bid.

Anyway, you seem intent on making out that us not being interested in Joe Cole is because of the Glazers. I think only a very few people would believe that. His salary demands or his injury history seem to be the reason most people believe. I don’t think it ever got to the stage where it was seriously considered. The Glazers would never be consulted about it unless the salary and the fitness issues were completely overcome. I think you are clutching at straws. There are plenty of things that we can blame the Glazers for without inventing new ones.

Ed - June 24, 2010 Reply

John, your arguments would have more validity if they were closer to the facts rather than “the word”. £120k basic with £40K in image rights may be his demand, although I very much doubt it since it would represent more than a 50% raise on his current salary. He’ll certainly not get that at either Arsenal or Spurs. It would be nearly double the Spurs’ top earner and larger even than Cesc Fabragas’ salary at Arsenal, who is the club’s biggest earner by miles.

My argument is that Ferguson does rate Joe Cole, United don’t have a problem signing players with a record of injury (Owen, Hargreaves) or older players (Larssen, Blanc) but do have a problem spending money on either wages or transfer fees at the moment. The fact United is not interested is, in my view, more based on financials than the manager’s preferences.

John Smith - June 25, 2010

I think you are so desperate to see the hand of the Glazers in everything that you no longer see clearly.

Even if we take your PA figures rather than my figures from a local journalist who covers United, why would United want to sign someone on such a high salary and signing on fee like that when he has a history of serious injuries? Did you not notice our injury crisis last season? It doesn’t make any sense from any perspective. If he would sign a pay-per-play contract, as Michael Owen did, it might.

Here’s a non-Glazer fact for you, Joe Cole has completed 90 minutes only once since January and that was against Wolves. Here’s another non-Glazer fact, Chelsea didn’t fight very hard to keep him once Cole refused their pay-per-play contract offer.

Alfonso Bedoya - June 24, 2010 Reply

And he’s only 21.

You’re right, there’ll be competition for him, but I think he’d be worth the effort… and it’s not like we’re throwing money around elsewhere. The Glazers owe the fans a decent signing.

However… I’ve read that his dream is to play for Barcelona… yawn.

bman - June 24, 2010 Reply

FFS if Chelsea aren’t willing to pay to keep him, I don’t see why we should be moaning about United not signing him. I agree that this column reeks of having it both ways: if we’d signed Cole you’d accuse the club of bargain basement shopping, and now that we don’t want him you say it’s because the club is being too stingy. FFS, let’s see what we end up with at the end of the transfer window. Cole would be a handy squad player, that’s all.

Ed - June 25, 2010 Reply

Hang on a minute, no need to put words in my mouth. My thesis is simple: Ferguson wants Cole but can’t sign him because the club can’t afford him.

John Smith - June 25, 2010 Reply

Yes, but, as usual, you provide no evidence whatsoever to support your thesis.

The Glazers have done enough that we can challenge them over without you inventing stuff.

bman - June 25, 2010 Reply

Maybe he’s just not good enough? I couldn’t see him being more than a good squad player, but he wants so much money that even Chelsea won’t retain him, so why on Earth would we mess up our salary structure by forking over star wages for a squad player?

Nip - June 25, 2010 Reply

5 years ago JC would have been a valuable signing but I’m not so sure now. Glad we are steering clear to be honest.

xmun - June 25, 2010 Reply

We all know that the Glazers are not the best of owners. No one does it, or will ever do it, for the love of God or better still for us fans!!! Not even the red knights.
But attributing all and every decision to the financial situtation of the club is beyond all limits. It is an insult to our intelligence. JC will simply not add anything to our team. When Rooney was replaced against Slovenia the England team became non existent in attack. Did JC make any difference? Emphatically NO!!!!!

Bill - June 25, 2010 Reply

If Cole plays a blinder in the next Eng game then people will be saying he is world class. The truth lies somewhere in between. Doubt United will sign him. What’s his best position these days anyway? I would have liked Silva and Cole at the start of the summer, but I very much we will sign anyone.

Bill - June 25, 2010 Reply

Very much doubt we will sign anyone (last sentence error!)…

SKW - July 1, 2010 Reply

If we sign no one, we are doomed. This team cannot win the Prem, let alone challenge for the EC. We need a goal scorer, a creative midfield, and, with Rio’s never-ending problems, a central defender.

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