Following Sunday's draw between Newcastle United and Liverpool, Newcastle midfielder Yohan Cabaye was asked about Joe Cole's failure to establish himself at Liverpool under new manager Brendan Rodgers after returning from Lille, the French club he spent the 2011-12 season on loan at.
"It is not easy for him [Cole] because he does not play much," Cabaye said. "It worked well for him at Lille and maybe would be a good idea for him to return there. The club, the coach, the fans love him at Lille, and I’ve heard that [manager] Rudi Garcia would be interested to have him back."
Cabaye, who began his career at Lille, came up through the youth ranks and played seven seasons with the first team before moving on to Newcastle in 2011. But he still keeps close tabs on his boyhood club, and in fact it was Cole who ended up covering for many of the minutes Cabaye would have played in had he remained in France last season.
Cole wasn't a lock for the first eleven at Lille, but he was often the first attacker or midfielder off the bench and saw a fair few starts whenever one of Garcia's regular starters needed a rest, in the end getting the eleventh most minutes amongst outfield players for the Ligue 1 side. In the end, though, while valuable to Lille, he wasn't worth enough to justify a £90k a week salary.
Following Cabaye's comments, though, and with Cole struggling to even make the bench most weeks at Liverpool, Garcia was asked about the situation.
"Joe is not only a great person, but also a great footballer," Garcia said. "But financially it was not possible to keep him, and those economic reasons could make a return to Lille impossible for Joe. Sportingly and humanly, though, I'd love to see him back."
Clearly, Cole's salary would still be a major stumbling block for Lille and Garcia. Just as clear, though, is that if Cole was willing to take a pay cut or if Liverpool were once again willing to subsidise his wages, he would be welcomed back to the French club with open arms.
Before, any talk of Cole taking lower wages to secure regular first team football elsewhere was a largely speculative discussion. Garcia's confirmation of both his interest in Cole as a football player and fondness for him personally would seem to suggest it's something more than that now—that now there is a club quite obviously willing to take Cole on and give him regular playing time.
The only question is whether Cole, who turns 31 on Thursday and who chose to return to Liverpool over the summer rather than taking lower wages to stay at Lille, will change his mind at the second time of asking.