FREE LOVE

Joe Cole re­leased as 500 play­ers go look­ing for...

Daily Mail - - Summer Transfers - By SIMON JONES and MATT LAWTON

JOE COLE and Michael Bal­lack will to­day sig­nal the start of a free trans­fer stam­pede when they are for­mally re­leased by Chelsea.

Af­ter Manch­ester City yes­ter­day showed the door to striker Ben­jani, winger Martin Petrov and full back Sylv­inho, Chelsea will fol­low by let­ting Eng­land mid­fielder Cole and in­jured Ger­many World Cup cap­tain Bal­lack leave af­ter fail­ing to of­fer them new con­tracts.

Cole will be­come one of the high­est-pro­file free trans­fers in Eng­land, but will not hold talks with any club while he is with Eng­land’s World Cup squad in South Africa.

Arse­nal and Spurs are both keen on sign­ing him, along with Manch­ester United, City and man­ager­less Liver­pool. He has turned down a re­turn to West Ham.

While Cole and Bal­lack will at­tract much in­ter­est, there is an un­cer­tain fu­ture ahead for other re­leased play­ers.

Leeds goal­keeper Casper Anker­gren is one of those in ex­alted com­pany.

‘I am not the gam­bling type but this is a gam­ble,’ he says.

It’s not the first time he has rubbed shoul­ders with the game’s finest but there is a darker spec­tre to this — what if I don’t find a club?

Like Cole, Petrov and Fabio Aure­lio, Anker­gren is out of con­tract but he should find a club af­ter help­ing guide Leeds back into the Cham- pi­o­nship and play­ing in their best FA Cup run for years.

Yet he can’t help show­ing con­cern. On av­er­age, more than 500 play­ers are re­leased an­nu­ally.

‘It’s dif­fi­cult,’ he says. ‘On one hand it is a big con­cern, on the other it is ex­cit­ing.’

The 6ft 3in Dane, 30, lives with his part­ner, Ca­rina, and their four-year-old daugh­ter, Vic­to­ria, i n Head­in­g­ley, Leeds. ‘ I am rea­son­ably se­cure fi­nan­cially but that doesn’t last for ever,’ he said. ‘I re­spect (Leeds man­ager) Simon Grayson a lot but I want to prove he was wrong to let me go.’

While Cole’s main chal­lenge will be to con­vince Arse­nal to pay him £100,000 a week, it is at the coal faces of League One and Two where re­al­ity bites hard­est.

More­cambe have re­leased long­est-serv­ing player Wayne Cur­tis at 30, and Tran­mere’s Chris Shuker is fac­ing a halv­ing of his £1,500-a-week wages to ex­tend his ca­reer else­where at 28.

The play­ers’ union are re­lied on for sup­port. Al­ready they have listed more than 400 re­leased play­ers on their web­site, ad­ver­tis­ing their avail­abil­ity. As chief ex­ec­u­tive Gor­don Tay­lor says: ‘It is a very in­se­cure ca­reer.’

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