Cole, who suffered the injury during Wednesday’s 2-1 defeat to Everton, is unlikely to play again this season unless Chelsea reach the Champions League final.
The left-back will miss England’s friendly against Egypt next month, throwing up the intriguing possibility of Wayne Bridge playing alongside former friend, but now bitter enemy, John Terry.
England manager Fabio Capello last week stripped Terry of the captaincy after a string of allegations about the Chelsea skipper’s private life. Chief among those was the claim that Terry had an affair with Vanessa Perroncel, the ex-girlfriend of Wayne Bridge and mother to his son. Manchester City’s Bridge is rumoured to be reluctant to play in the same team as Terry, a former team-mate from his Chelsea days, but his position seems certain to become clear before the Egypt game on 3 March.
Should he make himself available and excel, Bridge will be in with a strong chance of usurping Cole as England’s first choice for this summer’s World Cup. Cole’s hopes of playing in South Africa will hinge on his rehabilitation and the amount of match practice he can get before England’s first match on 11 June.
The injury, suffered in a challenge from Landon Donovan, is a major blow for the 29-year-old, who had been enjoying his best form since moving from Arsenal in 2006.
It is also another dent in Chelsea’s attempts to hold off Manchester United in the Premier League title race. The versatile Russian Yuri Zhirkov and Portugal full-back Paulo Ferreira are the candidates to deputise for Cole at club level.