Raheem Sterling's wonder goal against Bayer Leverkusen raised qustions about a more experienced Liverpool player......

 

Following Raheem Sterling's fantastic goal for Liverpool in their friendly win over Bayer Leverkusen, Brendan Rodgers offered his thoughts:

"I like wingers to play with width, and by the time the ball got to Jose Enrique, he (Sterling) was in a great position. His movement off the ball was very impressive - he's made a great run and the rest was that imagination and creativity that I love when he cut inside and scored with a wonderful finish. He's shown over pre-season that from a young guy who just worries about himself, he now worries about the team and the responsibility within the team."

 

While this may be taken at face value as a glowing endorsement of a talented youngster at Anfield, it was also a clear indication of why a vastly experienced, highly paid former England international must leave Liverpool as soon as possible. Step forward Joe Cole.

Rodgers' assertions with regards to Sterling in his post match comments should have rang like a deafening alarm siren in the mind of Cole. Essentially, Rodgers outlined exactly what he wants from his wide forwards (realistically the only position Cole would be able to play in for Liverpool) and his description was in stark contrast to what Joe Cole of 2012 can offer.

Where Cole likes to come in off the flank and play centrally, Rodger's“likes wingers to play with width”. Where Cole comes alive with the ball at his feet as is, shall we say, economical in his off the ball movements, Rodgers requires perpetual motion. Where Cole is often indulgent and lacking in work rate (and crucially, fitness) Rodgers demands“responsibility within the team.".

There is little doubt that Cole still has something to offer in his career but there is less doubt still that he can no longer regularly function in the Premier League for a team with Champions League aspirations. Despite a mildly successful season playing on loan for Lille in the more ponderous Ligue 1 last term, no one at Anfield was licking their lips with anticipation at seeing Joe Cole reborn this summer. His pre-season outings we're typical of his time at the club. He flitted in and out of games, looked tired, had the odd moment of technical brilliance and then got injured. He is simply too far gone to be considered anything more than a squad player for Liverpool these days.7

Aside from the fact that his style of play is not suited to Rodgers' ideal of how his forward players should operate while his team are in possession, the main problem with Cole is his inability to work when his team don't have the ball. Since his arrival on Merseyside, the most common feature of his play hasn't been his tricks, close control or passing. It has been his propensity to drop his hands to his knees and gasp for air whenever the ball goes out of play regardless of how old the game is. His lack of physical fitness is alarming and Rodgers charges his players to consistently pressure their opponents. It is just another example of how ill suited Cole is to the new manager's plans.

In a summer when the far more productive talents of Dirk Kuyt and Maxi Rodriguez have been released by Liverpool, it is surely just a matter of time until Cole follows them out of the Shankly Gates. The playmaker still offers the imagination and technical ability that he always has and, perhaps in the right side, could yet be an effective player. Indeed, it is not too hard to imagine him flourishing at a club with lower aspirations that Liverpool. While he remains at Anfield though, he is draining Liverpool's coffers to the tune of over £100,00 per week (hello Mr. Purslow) but also losing precious time in what remains of his career. It is time for him and his club to accept that things just haven't worked out the way they wanted and agree to write off their adventure together as a failure.

Joe Cole remains an exceptionally gifted footballer but unless he finds pastures new as soon as possible he will likely be warming the substitutes bench and find himself behind the likes of Raheem Sterling in the pecking order at Anfield. If that situation is allowed to come to fruition then he will not be able to demonstrate his considerable talents any more and that would be a shame for all of us who have taken great delight in his skills over the years. Most importantly though, for a man who loves his football as obviously as Cole does, it would be a shame for him.