It would appear that Ashley Cole’s time as one of the greatest defenders in the world is coming to an end, writes Tim Ashton.

His club boss cannot guarantee Cole more playing time, and has him behind Cesar Azpilicueta in the Chelsea pecking order.

His international boss is looking more to Leighton Baines for the World Cup, and then there are the up-starts of Luke Shaw and Kieran Gibbs to consider.

The 33-year-old Cole is out of contract in the summer, so will he stay on and become an ambassador with hospitality duties at Stamford Bridge?

Or will he go elsewhere to prove the doubters wrong?

Should he decide to call it a day and spend his immense fortune on living the high life in the sunshine, no one could blame him, and we would be left with the memories of a glorious career, clouded by more than one off-the-field scandal.

The facts are clear: three Premier League titles, seven FA Cup victories, one league cup, the UEFA Europa League and the Champions League.

In the national shirt he is England’s most capped full-back in history with 106 appearances spanning three World Cups and two European Championships.

But... a doomed marriage to the pop icon Cheryl Tweedy, claims of adultery, run-ins with the law, shooting a student on work experience at the Chelsea training ground with an air rifle, a string of leggy models on his arm and then there was the pants “selfie” scandal.

He is a player who regularly gets scorned, ridiculed and libelled in the papers.

He is the player opposition fans love to hate, and goad and boo.

But we are all kidding ourselves.

Ashley Cole is one of the best footballers this country has ever produced, he’s dated some of the best looking women around, has more money than sense and is still in his early 30s.

We’re only jealous.

Tim Harrison is back next week.