Jose Mourinho has confirmed Ashley Cole will play in Chelsea’s match against Steaua Bucharest after a seven-game absence and that he has no concerns over the left-back’s future -- but says it is up to the England international to reclaim his place.
The Chelsea manager has preferred Cesar Azpilicueta on the left side of defence of late, and has confirmed himself a huge admirer of the Spaniard, but still spoke glowingly of Cole’s attitude -- and stated he is highly likely to be given a new contract.
"I know him well; it’s easy to feel that he’s not happy, not comfortable with the situation but the way he trains, the way he behaves -- super professional," he said. "As always, fantastic trainer, fantastic professional.
"When he is on the bench behind me, I can feel that he’s there to win, even if he’s not on the pitch. [He is a] fantastic guy, full of respect for the young players, and yes he starts on Wednesday.
"I think sometimes even if you are not playing every game, and you are not a first choice player like he was always, sometimes it means you are not well, you are not in well conditions, you are not deserving of a new contract.
"I feel he's fine, and I feel he's going to show that he is fine, so I think naturally with the evolution of the season, he will play matches. Can he recover or not 100 percent his position? I don’t know but he will always play and he will always be a good player so I think naturally he will get his contract, because he’s a brilliant player for us."
Meanwhile, Mourinho gave some insight into his first ever Champions League win, as he defied modern football economics by lifting the trophy with FC Porto in 2004. The Portuguese said that, after the club’s 2003 Uefa Cup win, and with Mourinho contemplating leaving, the chairman took the unique decision to hold off selling any key players for a year.
Mourinho said it can be a lesson for teams like his opponents on Wednesday, Steaua Bucharest. “I think countries like Romania, and even my country, and other countries in Europe, where we are not economically very, very powerful, the first thing to make our teams strong enough to compete in the European competitions against other teams and countries with very important economical situations is when we can keep our best players.
"Because, for example, when we won the Uefa Cup in 2003, the next year I was thinking about leaving, and the president promised me I don’t have to sell one single player, and I told him ‘but we won the Uefa Cup and now big teams are coming for our players’ and he told me ‘in two years time yes but next year no’ and Barcelona wants to buy Deco and he didn’t sell Deco.
"I think the problem is to have conditions to keep the best players, so if you keep the best players in two, three years and you are the coach where anything is possible, but normally when a young player is coming, when a player is showing more quality, a powerful team from a powerful country comes and the team instead of getting better, gets worse.
"For example, you lost [Vlad] Chiriches, important player... of course. Big plus in safe belts of money, that’s what I’m saying. If you are strong enough to say no, you keep the best players, you have a better team, but normally, in this country, we cannot compete with this power."