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 Posted by ESPN Staff
May 19, 2006

Cole welcomes the pressure of Ballack's arrival

Joe Cole has insisted he will relish the challenge provided by new Chelsea signing Michael Ballack as he closes in on signing a new long-term contract.

Cole, currently preparing with England for the World Cup in Portugal, is aware midfield competition will be further intensified following Ballack's arrival at Stamford Bridge.

But the former West Ham player will not shy away from the battle for places and believes Ballack has the kind of star quality needed to help the Blues win the Champions League.

Cole said: 'These are exciting times for Chelsea. Michael Ballack is going to come into the side and give us something different and more competition for places which is great.

'We have won the Premier League two years in a row which is a great achievement, We have that in the bank and we have celebrated it.

'But next year we want to improve on that and we want to win maybe another cup or certainly the Champions League which is a big target for us.

'To do that we have to sign players like Michael Ballack with experience and at the peak of his career.

'He is a great player and I can learn from him and become even better.'

Cole added: 'There will be seven, eight, nine midfielders now at the club which is great. Since I've been at Chelsea I've seen players come and go and world class players sign for us.

'There is competition, which keeps you sharp and hungry, and the only thing you can do is keep working and fighting for your place and it's going to make us even better.

'A lot of midfield players have been signed and some of them have gone but I'm still there and playing fairly regularly.

'Since I signed three years ago, players like Juan Veron, Geremi, Emmanuel Petit, Jesper Gronkjaer, Tiago, Arjen Robben, Michael Essien, Damien Duff and Maniche have been in the midfield at one time or another.

'It has been said, at various times, that I could find it a struggle to get in the team. But I relish the challenge, though, rather than shy away from it.'

Cole is desperate to play a leading role in Germany for Sven-Goran Eriksson after being restricted to one substitute's appearance in a major tournament for his country during the 2002 World Cup.

He said: 'I've been involved in two big tournaments now, the 2002 World Cup and Euro 2004 and in total I've played ten minutes football - as a substitute against Sweden in Japan.

'Of course, it was great experience both times and invaluable to me but I have to admit I felt like a spare part at times and that particularly was the case in Portugal.

'It's marvellous to be in any England squad but at the end of the day I want to play. I can look back now at those tournaments and take plenty from both experiences.

'I definitely feel more confident now, more established. I've just come off a good season at Chelsea and I'm ready for this World Cup.'

Cole, who has 12 months remaining of his current four-year deal, is keen to secure his long-term future at Chelsea before the World Cup to avoid any distractions.

He said: 'There is no way I want to leave Chelsea. The contract talks are going well. I've talked to Peter Kenyon (chief executive) and I believe we want the same things.

'It's not about money, that part of the contract is done, but there are still a few things to be sorted out.

'We're not far away though and I'm hoping we can get everything sorted out before the World Cup so there are no distractions before what is one of the most important times in my career so far.'