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Ashley Cole's contract has been up in the air for months now. His current contract, signed in 2009, assuring him wages to the tune of £120,000 a week, is due to expire at the end of the present season. For the time being, he's a Chelsea player, but come January 2013, Cole will be free to negotiate and consider contract offers from potential suitors.
Are contract talks underway? Seems like it. Any meaningful headway? The rumor-mill and certain sources don't think so, while certain others would have you believe matters are a lot more mellow than we might think. When this matter first surfaced, it was accompanied by wildly inaccurate estimations of Ash's alleged wage demands being in excess of £200,000 a week, something that he promptly took to twitter to debunk.
Even though anything upwards of £120,000 a week is silly money, the least we know is that unreasonable, through-the-ceiling wage demands are not the reason talks are where they presently stand. The reason for that being the new club policy of offering strictly 1 year extensions to players aged 30 and above.
To begin with, let's briefly examine the rationale behind and reasonability of said policy. It isn't very hard for me to see why the club may want to install this. At an age beyond 30, it becomes a bit difficult to predict exactly how long a player can retain full possession of his abilities and as such, how fast or how steeply he may deteriorate for that matter - more so considering the demanding nature of the Premier League and generally unforgiving schedule of English football.
At the same time, a player once over 30 would reach a point in his career where he may probably begin to eye a final hefty payday, and therefore cast his glances around and put his wares about for the highest bidder. If there was one place Chelsea's aversion to discussing long-term contracts would lie, it'd be here. FFP considerations withstanding.
It is also right here then, that a club like Paris Saint-Germain would feel they're in with a chance. Depending on how much you believe Ashley Cole, the money wouldn't be the deciding factor in who's contract he'd sign, but if the money's what he wants, PSG can give him all he can pocket and more. There is also the small matter of Ancelotti having taken a liking to him during his time at the club and deciding he's in the mood for a reunion.
Now let's not forget exactly who we're talking about. Ashley Cole is a player who has given the club 6 years of exceptional service, all the while battling the unsightly malaise of match-crowd/media/public hostility, and generally been a pillar in defense as well as an epitome of footballing consistency. Surely, for all the match-winning efforts he has put in across the years, for being the backbone of a once impregnable Chelsea defense, his own wish too deserves consideration?
Perhaps it does - the question is, does the club find the aforementioned wish meaningful? The new contract rule has only begun to be established. I agree making an exception for a footballer of Cole's qualities wouldn't be out of order, but doesn't flouting what could potentially become a landmark club policy when it is in a nascent stage defeat the very purpose of introducing it in the first place? What about the message it conveys to others in the team who in a few years would find themselves at a similar point in their club career?
And then there is the issue of Frank Lampard's contract. His deal too, runs out in 2013, and while he may be comparatively more understanding of circumstances and thus possibly less urgent about seeking new employers, LA Galaxy are said to be readying an offer, meaning that in the event of a similar disagreement over extension length, he may be westbound, whether we like it or not.
In the end, even though the new contract rule aims to change things for the better, it may make contract resolution a significantly more complicated process for our club's ageing stars as the years progress, more so as FFP cranks up the severity on annual loss thresholds and tightens its chokehold on big-spending clubs.
Di Matteo admitted it was this very rule that caused Didier Drogba to part ways with the club, so bending the rule to let Cole slip through would hardly justify the unyielding adamance the management showed when Drogs wanted the same thing, rightful or not. The point is, whatever the merits the one year extension rule may carry in the long run, its implementation in the early days will be an ostensibly arduous process. At what points do sentiment and footballing gratitude enter and exit the picture? Even as a negotiation impasse continues, the best left-back in England today is a mere three months away from controlling his own fate and destination. Think about that.