JOE COLE refused to be drawn on his future last night after it was confirmed he is to leave Chelsea this summer.
The England playmaker will depart Stamford Bridge after seven years on 1 July after the Premier League champions refused to agree terms to a new deal.
He joins 30-pluses Michael Ballack and Brazilian right-back Juliano Belletti through the exit door as the Blues attempt to impose a stringent pay code.
Cole’s availability is set to spark a mass transfer scramble with Tottenham, Arsenal, Manchester United and Manchester City all scrambling for the 28-year-old’s signature.
But fronting a packed England press conference yesterday, the former West Ham trainee insists his focus lies solely on playing his part for England in South Africa this month.
“I am just focused on the World Cup,” Cole said. “I’ll leave that with my agent. I just want to get my head down and try and train and play well.
“My future will sort itself out. It won’t distract me. It has been going on for a while and it
is a story to be told at another time.
“I want to try and do my best for England over the next few weeks.”
Since moving across the capital for £6.6m in 2003, Cole has become an instant hit with the Blues faithful, winning three Premier League titles and three FA Cups in 282 appearances for the club, scoring 39 goals.
But a serious knee injury halted his progress last season with Cole struggling to hold down a first-team place having netted just twice in 26 games.
At the same time, talks stalled over a new deal with owner Roman Abramovich apparently unhappy at Cole’s reported demands to increase his £90,000-a-week wage to earn parity with the club’s top earners, who take home up to £150,000 a week.
With Cole, Ballack and Belletti off the wage bill, boss Carlo Ancelotti is now free to up his bid to replace Ballack with fellow German Bastian Schweinsteiger, and Cole with Liverpool winger Yossi Benayoun.
Harry’s hopeful of luring protege Joe
TOTTENHAM boss Harry Redknapp says it’s “not impossible” he will sign Joe Cole this summer.
Spurs are odds-on favourite to land the England midfielder but face stiff competition from rivals Arsenal.
Redknapp, who gave Cole his top-flight debut with West Ham as a youngster, said: “It’s not impossible. He’s told us that he hasn’t decided anything yet and he hasn’t done anything definite. So there’s a chance.
“I suppose it all depends on the financial side of it and everything else, but according to his agent he’s not made up his mind yet.”
WHERE WILL COLE END UP?
Manchester Utd 6/1
Manchester City 8/1
Real Madrid 12/1