Brendan Rodgers has refused to give Joe Cole any guarantees about his Liverpool future as the midfielder fights for a place at Anfield.
Cole, 31, came on as a substitute to score his first Premier League goal since April 2011 as Rodgers’ side won 3-2 at West Ham on Sunday.
It was a sign of his desire to fight his way back into the manager’s first-team plans after a frustrating start to the season.
The former England international, who returned to Anfield in the summer from a season’s loan at Lille, was out for seven weeks after suffering a hamstring injury in mid-August, then struggled for form on regaining fitness.
A poor performance during the 3-1 Capital One Cup defeat at home to Swansea on October 31 saw him taken off after 45 minutes, and Rodgers has used him sparingly since then.
However, his displays have improved, and he scored in the 2-2 Europa League draw against Young Boys in the Europa League on November 22 before breaking his league duck for the season at Upton Park.
Rodgers is prepared to listen to offers in January for Cole, who has 18 months left on his contract, but he insists that the midfielder’s future is being assessed from match to match.
“I’m just going along game by game,” Rodgers told the Liverpool Echo. “There is every opportunity for every player.
“It’s not just about the games. Every player gets a chance every single day to show what they are all about.
“Unfortunately for Joe since the game against Young Boys, when he created a goal and scored a goal, he has been disrupted.
"That’s unfortunate for him because someone else comes in and takes the opportunity.
“Joe just has to continue to look to get that consistency in his fitness. He’s a terrific lad and I feel for him at times. He’s working so hard and wants to do well for the club.
“Is his future here? You would have to ask him that. The guy is still a Liverpool player – and while he’s a Liverpool player, I’ll work as hard as I can with my staff to try to make him the best we possibly can.
“If he’s not going to play as often as he wants, then he’s no different to any player really. Players are about game time and money. But he’s not any kind of problem. He’s a good guy and we will see what happens over the coming months.”
Cole, for his part, insists he wants to stay at the club he joined from Chelsea on a free transfer in July 2010.
His immediate aim is to force his way into Rodgers’ plans for Saturday’s Premier League home game against Aston Villa.