Liverpool's Cole opens door for Hazard swap
Published 22:30 23/11/11 By David Maddock
Joe Cole is growing more excited about a long term stay in France - a fact could be the key to Liverpool’s immediate transfer plans.
If Cole sticks with Lille beyond his current loan spell with the title-challenging club, he could be a useful bargaining chip in any bid to prise Eden Hazard, one of the hottest properties in Europe, away from the same club.
The Anfield outcast is increasingly influential at Lille and, after an outstanding midweek performance to put them in sight of qualification for the knock out stages of the Champions League, they want him to stay.
President Michel Seydoux has been impressed with the way the English midfielder has settled into life in northern France.
Seydoux confirmed on Wednesday that his club want to keep Cole - even if they are now resigned to losing Hazard at the end of the season.
“Cole is becoming an important member of our team, and even though he is currently Liverpool’s player, it is not a certainty that he will leave us again at the end his (loan) contract,” Seydoux insisted.
“If he has a certain good feeling with Lille and we can make him an interesting offer, this is something that we will look into.
“We would like to keep Hazard too, and if he still sees a challenge here, then he could stay. It’s probable, though, that he will leave the club after this season, as there’s plenty of interest.
“Will €50million be enough? Nobody is irreplaceable and there are solutions for that kind of money.”
Cole and Hazard have formed an impressive creative partnership at the heart of the Lille midfield, and the pair were the stand out performers in an impressive Champions League win at CSKA Moscow.
That victory gives them a real chance of making the knock out stage, which will confirmed by a home win in their final group game, and with a title challenge also a possibility, Cole is excited by his new life in France.
“I’d like to leave a legacy here," he said. "The fans have taken to me straight away, and that really helps.
"They bring a Union Jack to every game, and they sing Hey Jude, which the rest of the team find hilarious.
“I’d like to win something here, I’d like them to look at me as Chris Waddle is viewed down in Marseille - they love him down there, and he’s still a legend.
“Who knows what may happen, but I find it really exciting to be here in Lille and it makes me feel proud to be so well accepted and respected.
“People always ask me about going home, but I can see no reason for doing that right now.
"I’m a Liverpool man, and I have a lot of friends there still, but I’m really enjoying my time here, and I feel I fit in.”
Hazard’s price will be the key to his future.
If Lille are serious about a £35m-plus valuation, then only a select few clubs such as Manchester City, Real Madrid and Chelsea could compete at that price. Of that trio, only the Spanish side have expressed any interest in the player.
Any less though, and it brings Liverpool into the equation, with the Anfield club well positioned after strengthening their ties with Lille through the Cole loan.
If they can sell Cole to the French club, then it would reduce Hazard's price further, and Kenny Dalglish would at least be in with a shot of competing for a player the Reds have pursued for at least three seasons.
Cole has already picked up some of the language, and making progress in the Champions League with a team that's been set up to get the best from his passing style has made a serious impact on him.
He would love to play for England again and has also expressed an interest in representing Great Britain at the Olympics, and being back at a domestic club would no doubt enhance those prospects.
But playing regularly and featuring so prominently in the Champions League has also elevated his profile massively, with his performance against Lokomotiv getting people talking again.
That could actually help him secure a move back to England at the end of the season, but Cole has hinted recently he would only be interested if it is a side with similar European prospects to Lille's.
“The English clubs that were in for me, no disrespect to them, were middle of the road Premier League clubs," he said. "I thought to myself, 'I could go and do that but will it get my blood boiling?'” he said recently.
“At Lille, we have a shot at the [French] title, and we are doing well in Europe, and that excites me. I want to stay at this level, and I want to fight for that.
“Of course, I could go back to Liverpool in the summer, and if I do, I’d give it another go with all my energy and all my desire, and try and make it work because it’s a blot on my career that I would like to make right.”
Tottenham showed some interest last summer, but didn’t follow it through.
If they are in the Champions League next season, however, that offers a route back home for Cole, as would any approach from Arsenal.
But at present he is feeling wanted at Lille, and if they make him a serious offer to stay, he could extend his French sojourn - and that could open up summer transfer possibilities for Liverpool.