Choosing his perfect player in terms of speed, skill and endurance, the former England full-back discusses superstars from Cristiano Ronaldo to Ronaldinho.
Ashley Cole is halfway in saying Lionel Messi has only scored one goal against Chelsea during his eight-year stint at Stamford Bridge when he realizes the Barcelona superstar has never scored against his Blues.
So how did he do this? Surely the former full-back knows the secret to arresting arguably the greatest player in history?
“It wasn’t just me!” a smiling Cole points out during an interview with Goal as part of the Nissan UEFA Champions League Trophy Tour.
“It was discussed, but the team effort was huge. When it came to stopping players like him, we had great understanding and great team solidarity at Chelsea.
“Our midfielder was an integral part of that point of view. It was certainly not just me. I wasn’t blowing a trumpet there signaling it! ”
Indeed, Cole proves nothing other than humble by choosing his perfect player.
By selecting the Brazilian legend Cafu for his endurance, the former England international admits: “I thought I had a good engine but when I bumped into him, I found myself on my knees!
“I even later played against him in a charity match for David Beckham and I don’t know how old he was then but he still had the stamina he had when he was 20 or 25! He was non-stop, a machine. ”
Then, explaining his choice of Arjen Robben’s left foot in front of everyone else, Cole concedes: “I played against him for Roma and he completely destroyed me!”
Cole, however, was for many years the best left-back in the world, a great defender who has also been fantastic in the future.
He had many memorable battles with Cristiano Ronaldo during the Portuguese’s move to the Premier League, when he was mainly used as a winger by Manchester United.
Cole arguably fared better than anyone against a player he said had the best right foot he has ever met.
“I was going to say David Beckham here, because I think he could put a ball on a sixpence, but I think I will go for Ronaldo,” rejoiced the 40-year-old.
“Ronaldo could go inside and out. Plus the quality of his right foot, the quality of his shot from all angles and different distances, the quality of his free kicks with the turn he could get on the ball, he was fantastic.
“He was someone you just couldn’t give space to. So it was about being on the front foot, being aggressive and trying to get out with him and not let him lift his head and start doing the jumps.
“It was about understanding that ‘I can’t let bullets go behind me’. I had to let them get up, but go quickly to him and stop him at the source. “
This tactic did not often work against Ronaldinho, however. As Cole admits, he was sometimes impressed with the Brazilian’s whimsical footwork, which he calls the most skillful striker he has ever faced.
“Even though I was in battles with him, sometimes I would laugh at myself when he did a crazy skill or did nutmeg,” enthuses the Chelsea academy coach.
“Even when you play against him, you like to watch him play. The way he was floating on that grass, doing jumps, finding passes with every part of his foot… He was like a magician.
“You see a lot of players who feel like they have the skills, but he’s been effective too; he did it in the right areas. He separated the teams with his skills. He had it all. ”
Ronaldinho also scored three goals against Chelsea but, interestingly, not one during Cole’s time at the club. The World Cup winner has this in common with former Barca teammate Messi.
Not that Cole takes credit for the coincidence, of course …