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Chelsea legend* Joe Cole, one of our own, retires after 20-year playing career

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*your mileage may vary

UEFA Champions League: Chelsea v Real Betis Photo by Ben Radford/Getty Images

Here, there, everywhere.

Once a Hammer, always a Blue (including as a young boy growing up in London), lately a Rowdy.

Plus stops at Liverpool, Lille, Villa, and Coventry City in between. After 716 professional appearances on both sides of the Atlantic Ocean, Joe Cole has officially called time on his career.

He retires on his own terms, which didn’t look likely just a few years ago after injuries devastated his career. He rediscovered his love of the game at Coventry — though not before helping to convince Eden Hazard to sign for Chelsea — and has spent the last few years in sunny Florida as a star player for the Tampa Bay Rowdies of the American second tier.

Having recently turned 37, Joey Cole has done it all, won it all (almost), and entertained us all along the way. It sounds like he will continue to stay with the Rowdies as a coach at least part-time, so it probably won’t be the last we hear from him.

JC’s status as a Chelsea legend is one of those borderline cases that will always be up for debate, but he certainly provided many memorable moments during his 282 appearances for the club, perhaps none more so than his league-winning goal against Manchester United in 2006. It’s a goal that summed up all the best about the little genius; skill, invention, power, pace, flair to defy the English football stereotype. It’s number one on this list produced by Chelsea TV, and rightly so.

Cole’s beautiful football often made it hard to find a place for him in the modern, pragmatic game, and, for better or worse, it’s also what placed tremendous expectations on his shoulders for both club and country. But with four Premier League titles, two FA Cups, two League Cups, a Chelsea Player of the Year award (2008), and a runner-up medal in the Champions League, he certainly did his best to live up to them.

Thanks for all the memories!

His statement, in full, emphasis mine:

After 20 years as a professional, the time has come for me to hang up my boots. 716 professional games, 104 goals, for seven great clubs – West Ham, Chelsea, Liverpool, Lille, Aston Villa, Coventry City and the Tampa Bay Rowdies – as well the honour of playing for England. It has been a dream come true. All of it.

There are key moments in every professional’s career. One of mine came when I was a young West Ham player. A senior pro, who was nearing his own retirement, said to me: ‘Enjoy every game, young man. It goes by in the blink of an eye and you’ll miss it badly after it’s gone.” He was right. Those words resonate even more now than they did back then. I tried to play and live by his advice every single day because being a professional footballer is an absolute honour.

Countless people have helped me through my career. I don’t want to single anyone out individually for fear of overlooking someone else! Simply, to the managers, coaches, back room staff and everyone who has helped me along the way: thank you.

My favourite thing about being a professional footballer was the feeling you enjoy after coming back into the dressing room after a win. It will be difficult to replicate that but I’ll always remember all of my former teammates who I shared that experience with. I’ve been incredibly fortunate to have played with some of the very best players of my era and even more fortunate to call a lot of them friends.

As a fan, I loved watching wholehearted, skilful players and this is what inspired me. I remembered what was special for me when I was sitting in the stands watching games and I tried to replicate this. I hope I was able to do this for some of the fans and people who have watched my games over the years.

Winning trophies at Chelsea was particularly special for me. Those memories will live with me forever, as will the chance I had to share them with my family. My wife, Carly, and our three amazing children, my Dad, George, my Mum, Susan, are what I’m most proud of.

Looking to the future, I want to stay involved in the game. I feel I can offer a lot as a coach and have really enjoyed the opportunity to undertake some of these duties with the Rowdies. To lend my experience to help other young footballers achieve their dreams, just like I did, is a big passion of mine.

Whatever is next, I hope the next two decades are as special as my last 20 years as a professional have been. Again, a huge thanks to everyone who helped me along that path.

Joe