The most inaccurate part of the popular caricature of Ashley Cole is the notion that he is motivated exclusively by money.
Sure, his infamous fury at being offered just a £5,000-per-week pay rise when seeking a new contract at Arsenal six years ago exemplified the greed that has become so prevalent in the Premier League, but it is also true that Cole is so committed to his sport that he has never let his performances fall below gold standard.
Not for Arsenal, not for England and, most of all, not for Chelsea. So this fine display against Stoke City, crowned by his first goal since May 2010, had nothing to do with the fact that he is trying to coax a new contract out of Chelsea. But it sure did not diminish his bargaining power.
Cole's contract expires next summer and he has yet to agree a new deal at Stamford Bridge, meaning he could be free to listen to offers from other clubs in January. Chelsea have denied reports that talks between the player and the club are foundering because of Chelsea's refusal to offer more than a one-year deal to a player who turns 32 in December.
Roberto Di Matteo is certainly eager to cling on to the player and is convinced Cole will commit to the club before any other admirers get a chance to lure him elsewhere. "I'm very optimistic that it will be dealt with before [January]," said Di Matteo, who stressed Cole's value to the club. "He has become a Chelsea legend, he is now Chelsea through and through. He's been here many years and has contributed a lot to this club.
"He's a fantastic professional, which I'm not sure you know. Somebody that's the first one out in training, one of the first to the building with JT [John Terry]. He trains every day like a professional, he's reliable, somebody that you could go to war with. He's a very quiet guy as well, very private at his own stuff. And he's one of the best left-backs in the world."
Chelsea's right-back, Branislav Ivanovic, rates Cole even higher than that and sees no signs of his team-mate's power fading. "For me, Ash is the best left-back in the world and has been for a long time," said the Serb. "Ash has everything – he has skill, he has speed, he can overlap going forward. He is defensively good and has a good reading of the game. I think he can play on for many years because he does things really well. He runs a lot every game, more than other players. He has not lost anything."
Meanwhile, the 25-year-old David Luiz, who joined Chelsea only last year, signed a new five-year contract after this laboured victory over a valiant Stoke side. David Luiz was lucky to finish the match, as he curtailed a late counter-attack by the visitors with a wild lunge into the shins of Jon Walters. Stoke's anger at the foul was compounded by referee Michael Oliver's decision to only book the Brazilian, a sanction that means the FA can take no further action.
"The worst thing is that Luiz's challenge is very, very poor but because the referee's seen it and booked him, he's not going to miss a game," said Tony Pulis. "It's like a policeman watching a bank robber rob a bank and because he's seen it, the police are going to let him off whereas if he didn't, they'd arrest him. It's absolutely crazy."
Man of the match Juan Mata (Chelsea)
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