Former Arsenal, Chelsea and Roma left-back Ashley Cole is this week's featured centurion.
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This week we take a closer look at Ashley Cole, one of Europe's most consistent full-backs for a decade or more, who turns 38 on Thursday. An Arsenal academy product, Cole spent his early-to-mid 20s in north London before going west to Chelsea, where he broke his UEFA Champions League duck in 2012. He has since played for Roma and, latterly, LA Galaxy.
Best performance: winner (Chelsea, 2012)
If you don't remember him ...
Well, he was still playing for LA Galaxy up to October, though he left Europe in 2016, two years after quitting the England team and departing his native London. One of the great left-backs of his era, capped 107 times in a 13-year international career, Cole modelled his game on Roberto Carlos and achieved a similar status: he made the 2004 and 2010 UEFA.com fans' Team of the Year as well as the UEFA EURO 2004 team of the tournament, among many individual honours.
At Arsenal he lifted two league championships – taking a key role in the unbeaten campaign of 2003/04 – and three FA Cups. By winning the latter competition four more times after joining Chelsea in 2006, Cole set a record for football's oldest major trophy of seven personal victories. His Chelsea spell also included the 2009/10 Premier League title, plus 2011/12 UEFA Champions League and 2012/13 UEFA Europa League triumphs.
After his stint at Roma, Cole went west to Los Angeles, where he captained the Galaxy in 2018. Though a schoolboy striker, scoring was never part of his game, with just 19 goals in his career (only one in Europe, for Arsenal against Dynamo Kyiv in 2003).
How he made it to 100 appearances
An unused substitute when aged 18, for Arsenal at AIK in November 1999, and then loaned to Crystal Palace, Cole finally got off the bench in the UEFA Champions League for the second half of a 4-2 win over Sparta Praha the following October. Soon a regular starter in Europe, Cole's Champions League swansong for the Gunners came in the 2006 final in Paris, despite having not featured since matchday two due to injury.
Barcelona won that match 2-1 and Cole left for Chelsea, whom he represented in two more such finals: the 2008 penalties loss to Manchester United in Moscow, and the shoot-out success over Bayern in Munich four years later. In both, Cole converted Chelsea's fourth spot-kick.
The full-back attained his UEFA Champions League century (not counting qualifiers) against Basel in September 2014 during his Chelsea farewell season. He appeared three times for Roma in the 2015/16 group stage, the last of them away to Bayern at the scene of Cole's finest European night.
His best moments
- Converting a penalty in the 2012 final shoot-out as Chelsea made up for their heartache four years before.
- Earlier that campaign, Cole made a goal-line clearance in the semi-final first leg to seal a 1-0 victory against Barcelona, preventing an away goal that might have tipped the balance otherwise in a tight tie ultimately won by the Blues. "No one could get past Ash," is how Frank Lampard remembers that evening.
- Cole's sole UEFA Champions League goal was crucial, an 88th-minute header at home to Dynamo for a 1-0 win that proved vital in taking Arsenal through the group stage to an eventual quarter-final.
What others said about him
"He deserves enormous credit for the desire and brilliance which has shone through over the years he has represented his country. There are few players who can be considered among the very best in the world, but Ashley in his prime was the best left-back without question."
Roy Hodgson, Cole's last England manager
"An absolutely outstanding player and bloke. He always had time for everyone at the training ground."
Frank Lampard, former Chelsea and England team-mate
"Ashley Cole is a fantastic defender. I have seen him keep the best players in the world quiet."
Ronaldinho, former opponent with Barcelona and Brazil
"Over the years I had some great battles with Ashley Cole, he does not give you a second to breathe, He was such a tenacious player when he was at his peak, quick, tough in the tackle. You knew it would never be an easy game."
Cristiano Ronaldo, former opponent with Manchester United and Portugal
In case you missed them ...
Champions League 100 club: Patrice Evra
Champions League 100 club: Andrea Pirlo
Champions League 100 club: David Beckham
Champions League 100 club: Frank Lampard
Champions League 100 club: Andriy Shevchenko
Champions League 100 club: Oliver Kahn
Champions League 100 club: Luís Figo