Ashley Cole and Jelle Van Damme, two of the LA Galaxy’s recent international signings, were unveiled to the media yesterday at a brief live-streamed press conference.  Headlining the occasion was the question still lingering on the lips of MLS fans across the country: is Ashley Cole taking such an enormous paycut (well, not really, because AS Roma is paying him) and journeying across the Atlantic pond to be a serious athlete, or is he here for the beaches and LA lifestyle?

Referring to the incident in 2014, when Cole had just joined AS Roma, where he reportedly rejected the chance to relax on a beach by moving to MLS, he insists he is not defending himself but that his words were taken out of context.  “I’m not going to come here and try to defend myself,” Cole said at Friday’s press conference, alongside fellow new signing Jelle Van Damme, who donned an “I BITE BACK” t-shirt.

“It was said. It was taken out of context because I was talking to the reporter before and he kind of said it to me: ‘We’re glad to have you at Roma, we didn’t expect you to be here, we thought you’d go relax on the beach.’

“In the interview, I’ve said it, yes. It’s come out my mouth. But of course you have to understand that I was at a new team and I have to kind of tell the fans that at Roma I was here to fight, I was there to influence and play in the Champions League in Europe. Of course, I hold my hands up. It was said. I have to deal with it. I hope I can kind of change the views of me coming here.” – Ashley Cole, at Friday’s introductory press conference

To reiterate his reasons for being with LA Galaxy now, Cole stated:

“Of course I’m a winner. I always want to win. I don’t come here to sit on the beach, to rest. I’m here to play football and work hard. I’m not a diva, I’m not an egotistical guy that comes and thinks he’s bigger than anyone. I’ll come here and work as hard as I can.”

Cole’s also aware of the difficulties Gerrard had in acclimating to the logistical issues of playing in MLS. He’s spoken with his former England teammates Frank Lampard and Steven Gerrard, and Robbie Keane before making the decision to come to LA.

“I’ve spoken to them on many occasions [about] how difficult it is. I spoke to the manager [about] how difficult it is with the traveling, the demands of the game over here. I know it’s going to be hard for me for sure,…But I’m happy to be here. I’m going to work as hard as I can, change a few views of me being here, and we’ll see.”

As for Jelle Van Damme, he didn’t make as much of a stir with his words as his humorous shirt did, nor was there much time to ask any questions that remain regarding his past.  But his sense of humor came across loud and clear when he heckled Cole when Cole was asked why he chose the Galaxy. Van Damme slyly interjected, “the beach.”

“I’m proud to be here. I think it’s the biggest club in MLS, and so hopefully we can win some trophies.” – Jelle Van Damme

When can we expect them to make their official game debuts?  Likely on February 24th in the CONCACAF Champions League match against Santos Laguna.

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