Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Cole Waiting for Someone to Blink

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Cole Waiting for Someone to Blink

Article excerpt

Byline: LEO SPALL

THE Ashley Cole transfer saga seems to have had almost as many twists and turns as a fortnight of Eastenders plots.

In the 18 months since the defender had his infamous meeting with Jose Mourinho, Pini Zahavi and company at London's Royal Park Hotel, wrangling, face-offs and slanging matches have become frequent fare.

But for those who have yearned for some sort of conclusion, the end is finally in sight.

The row overshadowed last night's 1-1 draw with Celtic, and the issuing of statements by Chelsea and their head coach Mourinho claiming they will not up their [pounds sterling]16 million offer to Arsenal for the defender by a single pound has signalled the start of the last episode.

Every act now is part of hard-nosed price negotiations and, with pride as well as money at stake for both sides, the Stamford Bridge club are confident they will not blink first.

They believe they have the upper hand after Arsene Wenger admitted the Cole saga was damaging his team's preseason preparations. The Arsenal manager publicly called for a speedy resolution and withmore than one reason.

Transfer deadline day may still be three weeks away but Cole's incendiary autobiography is scheduled for publication shortly before, and the newspaper serialisation could start as early as next week. In it, the defender launches a tirade at the Arsenal board and individuals on it for what he sees as their unfair treatment of him in a pay dispute. It leaves him little room to make up with the club.

The Stamford Bridge response has been to increase the pressure on their rivals. Mourinho said on Tuesday that he was ready to find someone other than Cole to fill his left-back slot and when talks between the two clubs were fruitless again yesterday, Chelsea declared an impasse.

Their statement said: "We have made a very substantial offer for the player.

"Although discussions have continued, Arsenal's valuation of the player does not match Chelsea's and therefore no agreement can be reached in the current circumstances."

Arsenal want more than [pounds sterling]25m for their unhappy England international, despite shaking on a gentleman's agreement that he could leave for [pounds sterling]16m when he extended his contract last summer.

They insist interest from superrich Chelsea, who had a major role in the breakdown of their relationship with their former trainee by approaching him illegally last year, was understood to be an altogether different matter.

But the attempt to impose a Roman Abramovich surcharge has raised the hackles of the billionaire club owner's executives. They are tired of clubs trying to turn Chelsea into football's Father Christmas every time they want to buy a player and see this as an important stand. …

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