Five things… Carlton Cole still needs to do to emulate Pele

1 Earn universal love and respect
There is something fitting about Carlton Cole’s long-awaited return to football coinciding with Pele’s 75th birthday this week. Two footballing icons approaching the next, and possibly final, chapter of their glittering careers: Pele on the home straight to becoming a centurion and Cole getting one last shot at glory with Celtic. While Pele can enjoy the next 25 years with his feet up, having already achieved greatness, the next 18 months could define Cole’s standing in the game. Time is running out to show the world he is Pele’s equal. While Cole is already much-loved in England, and particularly at West Ham, his move north provides the opportunity to expose his skills to a wider audience and augment his global brand.
Achievability rating: 8/10

2) Score 1,000 career goals
With 85 career goals so far, Cole currently falls significantly short of Pele’s record-breaking total of 1,281. However, it is well-known that the Brazilian’s tally is enhanced by goals scored in unofficial friendlies and tour games. By the same criteria, using goals Cole has scored in pre-season friendlies, training matches, school games, penalty shootouts in his garden and Wembley Doubles contests played over the park, Cole’s total rises to about 93 goals. This leaves him with around 900 left to get, a daunting figure but one that is not impossible as he will now be playing in Scotland. Defences north of the border would rarely have encountered a striker of Cole’s power, and it is reasonable to expect he could score upwards of 10 goals per game against teams such as Kilmarnock and Rangers.
Achievability rating: 7/10

3) Thrive on the biggest stage
Former Chelsea manager Claudio Ranieri once referred to Carlton, back in his days as a hugely promising Blues youngster, as a “little lion”, but he has more often resembled a caged lion. While Pele won the Copa Libertadores and the Intercontinental Cup during his time at Santos, Cole has been confined to the domestic leagues and never let loose in Europe. Until now. With Celtic currently sitting bottom of a Europa League group topped by Norwegian giants Molde, the stage is set for Carlton to revitalise the Bhoys’ European challenge. Next year, providing Ronny Deila’s side can finish above Aberdeen, Carlton will get his chance in the Champions League. A winner’s medal in that competition is something that even Pele would have been proud of.
Achievability rating: 6/10

4) Help the poor
After scoring his historic 1,000th career goal, a penalty for Santos in a 2-1 win against Vasco da Gama at the Maracana Stadium in 1969, legend has it that Pele turned to the heavens and dedicated his landmark to the “poor children” of the world. It was an example of his vocal support for those living in poverty. Carlton has been similarly outspoken on matters of global injustice, once angrily asking on Twitter, “Is this Gadaffi for real?” as the Libyan dictator oversaw the bloody bombardment of his own people amid a struggle for power in the North African state. Cole also founded the Football Fighting Ebola charity and supports his mother Selena’s Carlakka Foundation, which helps children in Sierra Leone. As one of football’s nicest men, Carlton is already on the way to matching Pele’s achievements in the charity sector.
Achievability rating: 10/10

5) Win a World Cup or three
To date, the international records of Pele and Carlton Cole are not comparable. While the Brazilian maestro won three World Cups and bagged 77 goals for his country, Carlton has so far won no World Cups and – despite playing seven times for England – never scored for the national side. Not only would it take a gargantuan effort of never-seen-before goalscoring for the 32-year-old to force his way back into the reckoning, it would also require a change of attitude from the international managers who have consistently ignored his abilities. Yet this is a European Championships year, and Cole will retain hopes of a surprise recall if the goals flow in Scotland. As for the World Cup, Carlton will be 34 when Russia 2016 comes around, two years younger than Miroslav Klose was when Germany triumphed last summer. There is still time.
Achievability rating: 2/10

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