Ashley Cole hopes the day will come when a defender wins the Ballon d'Or again but admits it is hard to envisage in the era of Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo.

Messi this year won a record sixth Ballon d'Or – edging him ahead of the five awards Ronaldo holds – when he saw off competition from Liverpool centre-back Virgil van Dijk.

Dutchman Van Dijk has been inspirational for the Reds since he joined from Southampton midway through 2017-18, and he played a key role in their Champions League success last season.

Former England left-back Cole would have liked to see a fellow defender win the coveted trophy - awarded to the world's top player - for the first time since Fabio Cannavaro in 2006.

However, he believes Barcelona's Messi and Juventus forward Ronaldo remain clearly the best players in world football.

"It's tough," Cole told Omnisport. "You want different positions maybe being credited with how good they've played in that season, but to be honest I don't think you can look outside of Messi and Ronaldo.

"What Messi does week in, week out is not normal. Again, the same with Ronaldo. It wasn't a surprise that Messi won it but one day, yeah, we probably would like a defender to win it."

One left-back who has impressed Cole in the Premier League this season is Ben Chilwell, who has been in fine form for high-flying Leicester City.

"I think, for me, him and [Liverpool's Andy] Robertson are the best two left-backs in the Premier League at the minute," Cole said, speaking on behalf of Nissan.

Chilwell looks set to become the regular starter for England heading into Euro 2020.

"He's playing in a good Leicester team, suiting his game at the minute where he can attack and he's got protection behind him," Cole said.

"Whether he starts for England? That's probably a question for Gareth [Southgate]. I'd like to see him start because I think when he has played for England he's played very well.

"He looks accomplished there. I'd like to see him start but that's down to the manager."

Nissan are proud partners of the UEFA Champions League. UEFA ambassador Ashley Cole was at the Chelsea FC v LOSC Lille match on Tuesday 10th December, along with the UEFA Champions League Trophy, which is being driven around the UK by the next generation Nissan Juke.

Ashley Cole hopes Arsenal appoint interim head coach Freddie Ljungberg as their permanent new boss because "he knows the club inside out".

Ljungberg was put in temporary charge following Unai Emery's sacking two weeks ago, celebrating his first win on Monday with a 3-1 triumph at West Ham.

The 42-year-old is reportedly in contention to stay on at the Emirates Stadium helm until the end of the campaign while the club continue their search for Emery's successor.

However, Cole has called on Arsenal chiefs to consider sticking with Ljungberg - whom he played alongside for seven years - for the long term, rather than looking elsewhere.

"Every club has to change. They're in another transition period at the minute where they tried Emery and for whatever reason it didn't work out," Cole, speaking on behalf of Nissan, told Omnisport.

"Now Freddie is there and hopefully he can take over as permanent manager because he knows the club inside out. Freddie was my friend when I was at Arsenal and hopefully he can change some things there."

Another of Cole's former clubs, Chelsea, are also going through a transition period after appointing club legend Frank Lampard as head coach in July.

Lampard has showed faith in young players such as Tammy Abraham, Mason Mount, Fikayo Tomori and Reece James, who all spent time on loan in the Championship last term.

And Cole, currently working as an academy coach at Chelsea, is full of praise for the work Lampard has done so far in the early stages of his Stamford Bridge tenure.

"I'm delighted," he said. "I was lucky enough to work with him at Derby County before he came here and I knew how good he could be.

"He's obviously come here and changed a few things, brought his own philosophy here, the way he wants to play. I think the team has done brilliantly so far, so no, no surprise how good he's done.

"The youth players have been great. A lot of people were probably saying he had no choice to play them, but I think he knows if they weren't good enough he wouldn't play them.

"But they've been brilliant, they've adapted well from playing in the Championship as most of them did last season and I think they are the driving force of this team at the minute."

The emergence of young talent has come at a cost for some players, though, with captain Cesar Azpilicueta recently losing his place at right-back to James.

"I wouldn't say his time is coming to an end," Cole said when asked about Azpilicueta's future. "Tactically sometimes maybe the manager wants fresh ideas, fresh players.

"It comes with the job, you can't play every game. It happened to me: Cesar took my place. He's still the Chelsea captain.

"It's not about just what he does on the pitch, it's how he motivates the players off it and I've been around that and seen how good he is at that. 

"I don't think it will worry him. It will probably spur him on to be even better and train even harder, which is hard to do because he is a beast at training."

Nissan are proud partners of the UEFA Champions League. UEFA ambassador Ashley Cole was at the Chelsea FC v LOSC Lille match on Tuesday 10th December, along with the UEFA Champions League Trophy, which is being driven around the UK by the next generation Nissan Juke.

Ashley Cole has confirmed his retirement from professional football.

A decorated left-back for club and country, the England international was widely recognised as one of the finest players in the world in his position during his time with Arsenal and Chelsea.

Stints at Roma, LA Galaxy and Derby County followed for Cole, who will now focus on a move into coaching.

Here, we look at some of the numbers the 38-year-old returned over the course of a magnificent career at the top level.

385 ­– Across spells with Arsenal and Chelsea, Cole made 385 appearance in the Premier League. He won England's top flight on three occasions – with the Gunners in 2001-02 and 2003-04 before starring for Carlo Ancelotti's Blues in 2009-10.

7 – Triumphing with Arsenal in 2002, 2003 and 2005 and Chelsea in 2007, 2009, 2010 and 2010, Cole has more FA Cup wins than any player in the competition's history.

38 – Cole was an ever-present for Chelsea in the Premier League during the 2011-12 campaign. It was also the season he supplied his highest number of assists (six).

15 – He chipped in with 15 goals over the course of his time in England's top flight, with four of those coming amid Chelsea's title-winning efforts of 2009-10.

107 – Cole comes in sixth in terms of all-time England caps with 107, one shy of 1966 World Cup-winning captain Bobby Robson. Former international team-mates Wayne Rooney (120), David Beckham (115) and Steven Gerrard (114) are also ahead of him, along with England's all-time most capped player Peter Shilton. Cole's Chelsea colleague Frank Lampard played for the Three Lions 106 times.

0 – No player has featured more often for England without scoring, with fellow full-back Gary Neville (85) the next most capped on that list.

22 – Cole has made more appearances at major tournament finals than any England player. Rooney and Gerrard managed 21, with Beckham and Shilton on 20.

England great Ashley Cole announced he has retired from the game at the age of 38.

Left-back Cole is one of only nine men to have played over 100 times for the Three Lions, who he represented at the 2002, 2006 and 2010 World Cups.

The former Chelsea and Arsenal defender won three Premier League titles and seven FA Cups, as well as helping the Blues to win the 2011-12 Champions League.

He moved to MLS side LA Galaxy in 2016 after a brief spell with Roma before returning to England earlier this year to play under former Chelsea and England team-mate Frank Lampard at Derby County.

The Rams did not give Cole a new deal after missing out on promotion to the Premier League and he will now pursue a coaching career having played his final match at Wembley in May's play-off final loss to Aston Villa.

"After hard thinking and consideration, it's time to hang my boots up and think towards my next chapter, which will hopefully be coaching," Cole told Sky Sports. "I'm doing the course at the moment. Now I want to be great at being a coach.

"As a young kid, I never expected to play one game or to be a professional. So, to be looking back now and to be able to say I played in World Cups and Champions League finals, being lucky enough to lift Premier League titles... it's a young kid's dream. I've fulfilled my dream."

Cole was part of the so-called 'Golden Generation' of England talents in the 2000s but that team, featuring stars including David Beckham, Steven Gerrard, Michael Owen, John Terry and Lampard, failed to win a major international tournament.

Asked about what made him most proud, Cole said: "The England caps. I probably didn't grasp it as much as I should. I look back now and I've played for my country not just once but over 100 times.

"I'm proud of that and it's just a little bit disappointing I didn't get to a final or even a semi-final with England. It's a little bit disappointing."

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