Joe Cole yesterday agreed a four-year deal worth £90,000 a week with Liverpool, despite failing to receive assurances from the club that Steven Gerrard and Fernando Torres would not be sold this summer.
Cole, 28, chose Liverpool ahead of Arsenal and Tottenham after prolonged conversations with manager Roy Hodgson and managing director Christian Purslow. It is understood the question of whether Gerrard and Torres would still be at the club next season was raised during negotiations and the club were unable to give guarantees. Real Madrid were interested in Gerrard, although that has cooled, while Chelsea remain keen to sign Torres.
However despite the uncertainty concerning Liverpool's two biggest stars Cole decided his future lay at Anfield, and he joins on a free transfer from Chelsea where his contract ran out after seven seasons there.
Liverpool were the only club to meet Cole's wage demands, but the deal is being seen as a major coup for Hodgson, who replaced Rafa Benitez as manager earlier this month. The club felt Cole might be reluctant to move away from London, having spent his entire career in the capital with West Ham United and Chelsea. He also has recently had his first child with wife Carly, another reason perhaps for staying close to his roots.
Yet Cole has turned his back on London, and on Champions League football with either Arsenal or Tottenham, to switch to Anfield. Although the financial terms were important to him, it is understood that footballing considerations were the primary reason he chose Liverpool. His main aim was to find a club where he felt his talent would be given the best chance to flourish, and Cole believed that there would be fewer first-team opportunities at Spurs and Arsenal. Having won many trophies with Chelsea, the most important thing for Cole now is to play regularly.
The key element has been the involvement of Hodgson, who has promised the England midfielder he will have a fundamental role to play in his new team. Cole, who flew out to the club's pre-season training camp in Switzerland yesterday, will undergo a medical in the next 48 hours.
Cole joins Liverpool with Yossi Benayoun having gone the other way last month. Benayoun, who at 30 is two years older than Cole, signed for Chelsea for £5m to replace Cole. At face value it would appear that Liverpool have pulled off a brilliant deal – effectively trading Benayoun for Cole plus £5m. Chelsea however can point to the reduction in wages as off-setting the transfer fee, as Benayoun is paid around £55,000 a week.
Liverpool announced the signing with a brief statement yesterday on their website. It read: "Liverpool FC are delighted to confirm the signing of Joe Cole on a four-year deal. The England midfielder has agreed personal terms and will undergo a medical in the next 48 hours."
Former Liverpool players queued up yesterday to toast the acquisition of Cole from under the noses of Tottenham and Arsenal. Phil Thompson said: "I would have liked Benayoun to have stayed. He was a really good player but I tell you what, if I had a choice between Cole and Benayoun I'd take Joe Cole every time."
He hoped the news might make the likes of Torres, Gerrard and Javier Mascherano think again about possibly leaving. "I think the arrival of Joe Cole will tell them that all is not lost and Liverpool is still a big football club," Thompson said.
Ian Rush added: "I think this sends a sign out to Liverpool supporters that the club do mean business. It's a fantastic buy. When you look at what we've got attacking wise, we've got younger lads but we needed more experience and Cole brings that."
Cole is the first player signed by Hodgson, and joins Serbian international Milan Jovanovic, who was also a free transfer, as the two new faces at the club. Hodgson has agreed the sale of the Argentine international left-back Emiliano Insua to Fiorentina for £5m while winger Albert Riera is likely to be sold to Olympiakos for £4m. Hodgson has been told he will able to use the funds raised to strengthen, with a left-back remaining the top priority.
In the end, it was the football that swung it for Joe Cole. Tottenham Hotspur and Arsenal were both waving tempting offers in his direction, but neither club could promise quite the security that Roy Hodgson was all but guaranteeing at Liverpool.