After nearly twenty years in the professional game, England’s most-capped full-back has hung his boots.
Ashley Cole’s retirement brings to end an illustrious career which saw the former Chelsea and Arsenal man win 16 trophies, including a record seven FA Cups, three Premier League titles and a Champions League trophy.
Cole started his career at boyhood club Arsenal, making over 200 appearances in north London and helping the Gunners to finish the 2003/04 Premier League season unbeaten.
Ashley Cole has announced his retirement from football:
The best left back ever to play in the Premier League?
What a career. pic.twitter.com/HRibrYtt3A
— SPORTbible (@sportbible) August 18, 2019
Cole moved to Chelsea in controversial circumstances in 2006 and went on to become a legend at Stamford Bridge, making 338 appearances for the Blues in his eight-year spell there.
He also amassed 107 caps for the England national team over a period of 13 years, playing for the Three Lions at three World Cups. So…the highlights?
Arsenal’s Invincible Season
Cole played a pivotal role in Arsenal‘s Premier League success in 2003/04, where his defensive contributions helped Arsenal to concede just 26 goals over the course of the season, keeping 15 clean sheets. He also contributed further up the field, getting four assists.
His impressive performances earned him a spot on the PFA Team of the Year and the UEFA Team of the Year – although unfortunately, Cole’s time at Arsenal is now more remembered by how it ended than the many successes he had there.
Keeping Cristiano Ronaldo At Bay (Twice!)
Cole was one of the standout performers in England’s ill-fated UEFA Euro 2004 campaign and was named in the Team of the Tournament despite his team only making it to quarter-finals.
His personal highlight of that tournament was his performance against Portugal, successfully keeping an emerging Cristiano Ronaldo at bay throughout the game. England could only draw against the hosts after extra time though, and despite Cole converting a penalty in the shootout, the Three Lions crashed out of the tournament.
Cole would come back to face off against Ronaldo again two years later at the 2006 World Cup, once again keeping the forward at bay. Unfortunately, England once again lost to Portugal on penalties, and Cole ended his international career eight years later without a single trophy.
Screamer Against Sunderland
Cole wasn’t exactly known for his goalscoring exploits over the course of his career, scoring just 21 goals in his 702 total appearances. Despite this, his sensational goal in Chelsea’s 7-2 demolition of Sunderland in 2009/10 earned Chelsea’s Goal of the Season award that season.
In the 21st minute, John Terry hoofed the ball down to a sprinting Cole, who turned to beat a Sunderland defender going in for a sliding tackle before beating the goalkeeper at the near post.
Injury troubles in 2009/10 didn’t stop Cole from having an fantastic individual campaign, in which he scored four goals and made five assists as Chelsea won the Premier League title for the first time in four years.
Performance Against Barcelona
Cole gave what may have been his most impressive and perhaps his most important performance in Chelsea’s Champions League semi-final against Barcelona in 2011/12, when the Blues beat a Barcelona side which included the likes of Xavi, Andrés Iniesta and Lionel Messi in their primes.
He worked tirelessly and won a number of defensive duels against a peak version of Dani Alves, while his overall defensive performance helped Chelsea keep a clean sheet against a high-scoring Barcelona side. His most notable contribution, however, was an excellent goalline clearance which denied the Catalan side an away goal.
Chelsea would go on to draw against Barcelona in the away leg, reaching the Champions League for only the second time in their history.
2012 Champions League Final
Proving once again that he thrived under pressure, Cole gave a sensational defensive performance in Chelsea’s Champions League final defeat of Bayern Munich, converting a decisive penalty as the Blues became the first London side to win the Champions League.
His performance cemented his status as a Chelsea legend and he left the club in high regard two years later.