Why Ashley Cole’s departure was a watershed moment in Arsenal’s history

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Ashley Cole

Cole - Plenty of medals since 2006 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Ashley Cole is currently in the news for joining a long line of England penalty shoot-out failures, but like him or loathe him, only the most churlish of fans would deny he is a highly talented defender who has shown remarkable consistency over a very successful career. There is ill-feeling towards him for two reasons. Specific to Arsenal fans is the way he left the club, which is seen as an act of betrayal. More generally, he is perceived to embody the greed culture that has become associated with high profile football players earning wages that border on the obscene when compared with ordinary folk.

Gael Clichy displaced Patrice Evra at left back during the Euros for France and has won a title medal with Manchester City in his first season since leaving Arsenal. And yet, hand on heart, on a footballing level, few Gooners could really say they think their team were served better by having Clichy between 2006 and 2011 than if Cole’s services had been retained. Quite simply, along with Philip Lahm, he is probably the stand out left back in world football.

The details of the events that led to Cole’s departure are well known. In brief, the club were willing to pay the number three £55,000 a week to extend his contract with them, but were not prepared to add on an extra £5,000 to cover the amount his agent Jonathan Barnett wanted for his services to Cole. It became a real point of principle to the extent that there are certain agents the club has refused to deal with for a number of years, such as Pini Zahavi, which has meant certain players, for example David Luiz when he signed from Benfica to Chelsea, have effectively become off limits. A more pragmatic view from a boardroom where principles dictated policy might have been to simply consider the package a lump sum to Cole and let him decide how it is split, instead of getting on some moral high horse as the board did in 2006. The exception was David Dein, who brokered the deal and thought he had struck agreement, only to see his fellow board members outvote him on what had been agreed. Dein is a man comfortable swimming with the sharks, and ever since his departure, the club have been a lesser force when it comes to transfer dealings.

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Editor of The Gooner and author of several books on Arsenal, including 'Arsènal: The Making of a Modern Superclub' co-written with Alex Fynn.