LONDON (AFP) - Former Chelsea defender Ashley Cole joined Italian side Roma on a free transfer on Monday.
Cole had been linked with a host of Premier League clubs since being released by Chelsea at the end of last season, but the left back has opted to continue his career in Serie A.
The 33-year-old signed a two-year contract with Roma, who confirmed the deal on their official website alongside a picture of Cole next to the club’s crest.
“AS Roma have acquired Ashley Cole’s playing registration on a two-year deal which expires on June 30, 2016,” the statement read.“The agreement also gives the club the right to extend the contract into a further season.”
Cole and his agent Jonathan Barnett had flown to Italy to discuss the move over the weekend and the defender underwent a medical before travelling to Roma’s Trigoria headquarters to sign a contract that will reportedly net him 4.6 million euros (S$7.8 million) a year.
After starting only 15 Premier League matches last season, Cole hopes for a fresh start at Roma, who will compete in the Champions League next season after Rudi Garcia’s men finished runners-up behind Juventus in Serie A last term.
“Will never forget my time in England was a pleasure, but now onto a new challenge,” Cole wrote on Twitter.
Widely regarded as the world’s best left back when in his prime, Cole enjoyed huge success during his eight seasons with Chelsea.
He won the 2012 Champions League, the 2013 Europa League, the 2010 Premier League, four FA Cups and the 2007 League Cup.
But Cole failed to convince Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho he was worth a regular place in the team last season, and he was often left on the bench with Cesar Azpilicueta, usually a right back, selected ahead of him.
He appeared to realise his future lay away from Stamford Bridge when he broke down in tears as he waved farewell to the club’s fans during the lap of honour following their final home game of the season against Norwich in May.
East London-born Cole made his name at Arsenal, where he emerged from the youth academy to star for the Gunners, helping them win the Premier League in 2002 and 2004.
But he angered Arsenal fans by making the move across London to Stamford Bridge following a falling-out over Cole’s demands for an improved contract.
He has 107 England caps and announced his retirement from international football in May when he was left out of his country’s World Cup squad.
Cole was the second new arrival at Roma on Monday, with Fenerbahce midfielder Salih Ucan also joining on a one-year loan.
Roma will pay the Turkish club 4.75 million euros to have Ucan next season and can extend the loan for a second campaign at no further cost.