Feb 1 2013 By Yann Tear
RAFAEL Benitez has played down the antipathy Ashley Cole often attracts and says his left back deserves the highest praise for being on the verge of collecting his 100th cap.
If Cole plays against Brazil next Wednesday he will reach that special milestone - joining a select band of players who have racked up a ton of games for England: Peter Shilton, Bobby Charlton, David Beckham, Bobby Moore, Billy Wright and Steven Gerrard.
But Cole (pictured) is not a universally popular figure, to say the least.
It was not so long ago that he was drawing venomous catcalls in an England home match and is rightly or wrongly associated with the financial excesses of the Premier League and the sometimes out-of-touch lifestyles of its players.
Then there was the air gun at the training ground incident and the celebrity marriage dramas played out in the tabloids.
However, Chelsea' interim boss thinks his qualities as a football should be celebrated this week.
"In football, things can change every minute, so we know the mood [towards players] can change," Benitez said. "If he plays it will be 100 caps, so it's a fantastic achievement and I think we will see in the coming days what people think of him.
"People will be talking about that. Obviously 100 caps is an amazing number of games, so I think he has done something well in his career.
"He's a great player. He's doing really well for us and hopefully he can do well for England for a long long time."