Alan Hansen believes Chelsea did themselves a huge favour by signing Ashley Cole on a contract extension, with the left-back continuing to prove his worth for the side and for England as well.
Cole was coming into the final six months of his deal with the Blues, and had been connected with a possible move to Manchester United, as Roman Abramovich held out on giving the 32 year old a new contract.
But the club eventually agreed to keep him on board, and as he prepares to make his 100th appearance for England against Brazil, Hansen believes the former Arsenal man has proven his worth.
"Had Cole been allowed to leave Stamford Bridge at the end of the season, you can be certain a top Champions League club would have signed him," Hansen said in the Telegraph. "He has been Chelsea's most consistent player in a hit and miss team.
"It was no surprise to see Manchester United regularly linked with a move for him when it looked like he would not get a new contract at Chelsea.
"When you look at the careers of players such as Cole, Steven Gerrard, Frank Lampard, John Terry and Wayne Rooney, you ask yourself where could they have played had they decided not to stay in the Premier League?
"In all their cases they could have signed for Real Madrid, Barcelona or any of the world's major overseas clubs.
"Cole definitely fits into that category. He would have been perfect for the all-conquering Barcelona side of recent seasons, his natural athleticism and ease on the ball arguably making him the best left back in the world."
Hansen also insisted that Cole could surpass 100 caps for England and continue to be an integral part of the national side, explaining: "When the time comes and his speed starts to decline, Cole will stop bombing forward so much and concentrate solely on defence.
"He may earn his 100th cap on Wednesday, but if it is his desire he could comfortably go past Peter Shilton's record of 125."
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