CARSON, Calif. -- The LA Galaxy's pursuit of English defender Ashley Cole isn't as far along as multiple reports have indicated, club president Chris Klein says. But an agreement appears likely soon--and Cole's not the only international veteran anticipated to arrive for 2016.
Cole, a 35-year-old outside back, has made 107 appearances for England's national team, played in three World Cups and two European Championships, and spent most of his career with Arsenal and Chelsea. And many outlets have reported that he's already reached an agreement to join the Galaxy. His contract at AS Roma was terminated by mutual agreement earlier this week, paving a path to Southern California.
“Still very close. Nothing new to report,” Klein told MLSsoccer.com Friday afternoon. “There's other issues to work through, but he's a player that has his own qualities, and we're getting closer. But it's not done yet.”
A deal with Belgian center back Jelle Van Damme also is close to fruition, Klein said, and the Galaxy are hopeful they can also bring in Dutchman Nigel de Jong to partner with Steven Gerrard in central midfield.
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“I would say where there's smoke, there's fire, so there's some truth,” Klein said when asked about Van Damme and de Jong. “Two different stages [of negotiations]. I would probably put Van Damme['s progress] in the Ashley Cole camp. And de Jong is, obviously, a fantastic player and kind of a wish-list type of guy, and he fills a positional need for us, and we'll see what happens.”
None were on the field when the Galaxy opened camp Friday morning at StubHub Center, Klein said. LA isn't opening training to media until Wednesday.
Van Damme, age 32, who can also play at left back or in midfield, has been with Standard Liege since 2011 after four seasons at RSC Anderlecht and another with Wolverhampton. He's played for Ajax Amsterdam, Southampton, and on loan with Werder Bremen, and had 34 caps with Belgium's national team.
De Jong, age 31, has played for AC Milan since 2012 after stints with Ajax Amsterdam, Hamburger SV, and Manchester City. He's made 80 international appearances for the Netherlands and played in two World Cups and two European Championships. He's remembered for a chest-high boot into Xabi Alonso's chest in Holland's loss to Spain in the 2010 World Cup final, a challenge that controversially was not sanctioned with a red card.
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Aston Villa's Joleon Lescott, a 33-year-old defender who has played for England's national team, also has been linked by media reports to the Galaxy, but Klein said a deal with him was “not happening.”
“It's a big if, but if we were able to bring in three players [such as Cole, Van Damme and de Jong], we feel very confident about the group that we have and feel it's a stronger team than last year," said Klein. "We can compete across all competitions and with all the things we have with international call-ups throughout the year. That's the point of this whole thing, is to try to build a roster that can win. Being the Galaxy, we feel responsible to do that each and every year.”
The Galaxy are in the quarterfinals of the CONCACAF Champions League, with a home-and-home series against Santos Laguna set to begin Feb. 24 at StubHub, and would play in the FIFA Club World Cup late next fall if they win the title. They did not qualify for the following CCL, which begins in late summer.