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Joe Cole returns to West Ham

The career of one of English football's enigmas came full circle when Joe Cole returned to the club where he began, West Ham United. He was reported to be undergoing a medical before completing a free transfer from Liverpool.

As a teenager at Upton Park, Cole was regarded as the most naturally-gifted player of his generation, coveted by every club in the country. Subsequently though, he never quite fulfilled his potential.

Before he had even made a first team performance for West Ham, Sir Alex Ferguson would call the then manager Harry Redknapp to ask about the youngster's progress. If Cole had joined United, he might have developed differently. Instead he went to Chelsea, where his individuality never quite conformed to Jose Mourinho's demand for shape and discipline.

A move to Liverpool was badly-timed, with Liverpool struggling to find any coherence or leadership. Cole's substantial salary may have been decisive in manager Brendan Rodgers' decision to offload him in the transfer window, after the manager had decided that Cole was surplus to requirements.

Cole may still enjoy an Indian summer at the club that nurtured his skills, where the fans still worship him and where the manager Sam Allardyce has a gift for accommodating the occasional flair player within a disciplined style.

The dream, perhaps a fantasy, would be for Cole to rediscover his teenage zest and restate his claim to an England place. For England,Cole was also sporadically brilliant, occasionally disappointing. He was the best England player at the 2006 World Cup, when he was given a little freedom to wander from the left of midfield, but didn't make the squad for 2010. It's 18 months until the World Cup in Rio. That would be the fitting end to a career that has never quite scaled the heights.

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