Chelsea manager Roberto Di Matteo is ‘very optimistic’ of Ashley Cole signing a new contract at Stamford Bridge before the transfer window opens.
The left-back’s first goal for 28 months against Stoke kept the Blues top of the Premier League as they triumphed 1-0 on Saturday.
After scoring the winner, the 31-year-old said he felt as ‘fit as I’ve ever been’.
Di Matteo has no fears the man he hailed as a Chelsea “legend” would reach January in a position to be able to pen a pre-contract agreement with a rival club.
“I’m very optimistic that it will be dealt with before that,” the manager said after watching Cole net the Blues’ vital late winner.
Di Matteo confirmed he had recommended to the Chelsea board that they keep Cole “as long as they can” before waxing lyrical about the defender, who controversially joined the club from Arsenal six years ago.
“He has become a legend – he is now Chelsea through and through,” said Di Matteo.
“But I wouldn’t say it’s just happened recently. He’s been here many years and has contributed a lot to this club.”
Hailing Cole as an ideal example for Chelsea’s new players to follow, he added: “He’s a fantastic pro, which I’m not sure whether you know.
“Somebody that’s the first one out in training, one of the first into the building with JT [John Terry], trains every day like a professional, reliable, somebody that you could go to war with.
“And he’s a very quiet guy as well. He’s very private at his own stuff.
“He’s one of the best left-backs in the world.”
It is said that Cole suffers from a persistent ankle problem that can limit his ability to train but Di Matteo said: “He’s physically very good, very strong, has the ability to recover very quickly from game to game. Offers us a lot on that left hand side.”
Cole does not offer many goals but asked whether he would urge him to get forward more often, Di Matteo said: “He’ll have to buy me dinner. That’s what I’m going to ask him.
“For two years, he hasn’t scored and now he has, so he should buy me dinner.”