Joe Cole puts ‘clinical’ England star on pedestal as he likens forward to Messi and Salah

Joe Cole, April 2023 Credit: Alamy
Joe Cole, April 2023 Credit: Alamy

Joe Cole has detailed how he feels Bukayo Saka is one of “only a few players” alongside star forwards Lionel Messi and Mohamed Salah with a certain attribute to hurt defences.

At just 22 years of age, Arsenal forward Saka is already establishing himself as one of the Premier League’s best wingers. Last season, as the Gunners finished second in the league, he was directly involved in 25 goals – just six less than Salah.

The Englishman has also shown himself to be a very useful asset for the Three Lions. In 29 games, Saka has scored 11 goals – including three in the World Cup – and provided seven assists.

Following his latest good performance for England, in a 1-1 draw against Ukraine, former Premier League winger Cole showered him with praise.

“You can’t defend [against Saka] because he’s got this ability like Lionel Messi where he takes it backwards,” he said on Channel 4.

“So the defender, you can stop him but he takes it back and he’s still got the ability to whip it with so much power.

“There’s only a few  – Mo Salah’s got it, Lionel Messi’s got it and Bukayo Saka’s got it. When he gets in that position, he’s clinical.”

Indeed, Saka has shown time and time again that he’s not a one-dimensional attacker, and his returns of both goals and assists reinforce that.

That he’s being likened to two of the best forwards in the world in Messi and Salah shows just how prodigious a talent he is, and could continue to be.

He’ll need to consistently show his skills for years to come to be in the same conversation as players like that, who have been stars of world football for years, more regularly.

But that he came so close to matching Salah’s achievements in the Premier League last season shows he’s not far from his level already.

If Saka does continue at his current rate, he’ll not only cement his status as one of the league’s – and possibly the world’s – best, he’ll also ensure that Arsenal remain the competitive outfit they were last season, and look to be again this season.

In international football, he could be the driving force in England bringing home a trophy, showing in the last World Cup that he’s able to rise to the big occasion.

READ MORE: Gareth Southgate insists England ‘didn’t click’ despite ‘controlling the game’ against Ukraine

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