The left-back is probably the best in the world at his position, and was England's lone success at an otherwise disastrous World Cup in South Africa.
But playing football well has not rescued the popularity of a man who earned widespread scorn for his acrimonious move from Arsenal to Chelsea, and whose split from nation's sweetheart Cheryl Cole cemented his hate figure status.
Appropriately, he saw out the year to a chorus of boos as Chelsea lost to Arsenal at the Emirates Stadium.
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But why is Ashley Cole so loathed?
1- The controversial transfer
A year after he was fined for attending a secret meeting with Chelsea's Jose Mourinho and Peter Kenyon, Cole left Arsenal for Stamford Bridge in 2006. The player was upset that the Gunners had reneged on a verbal agreement to pay him £60,000-a-week, offering a new contract worth 'just' £55,000. The transfer was widely assumed to be motivated by money, earning Cole the nickname 'Cashley'.
2- The autobiography
Cole offered his side of the story in a spectacularly-misjudged autobiography entitled 'My Defence'. He claimed the issue was not money but Arsenal's disrespect in going back on a promise. However, he came across as hugely petulant, notably in his recollection of a phone call with his agent Jonathan Barnett, who broke the news of the Gunners's reduced offer: "He is taking the p***, Jonathan!" Cole exclaimed, adding: "I was trembling with anger. I couldn't believe what I'd heard."
3- The Kazakhstan clanger
In 2008, England fans were given the perfect excuse to vent their fury after an errant Cole pass gifted Kazakhstan a goal in a World Cup qualifier at Wembley. Never mind that England went on to win the game, or that Cole had been one of his country's most consistent players for years. His every touch was subsequently booed, and one bad pass ludicrously became a microcosm of his public persona - careless, complacent and arrogant.
4- The break-up
It was bad enough for most people when the very unpopular Cole married the very popular Cheryl Tweedy. But when allegations of infidelity surfaced in the tabloids, all hell broke loose. The pair split, and blame upon blame was heaped upon 'Love Rat' Ashley, the man who made the People's Princess cry her eyes out to Piers Morgan - a fate you would not wish on your worst enemy.
5- The messenger status
In the wake of England's World Cup exit, news broke that, before the tournament, Cole had launched a 'foul-mouthed attack' on the country. What actually happened was that he had updated his Blackberry Messenger status to say 'I hate England and the f***ing people' - motivated no doubt by thousands of poisonous headlines. Once this private whinge became public, the reaction against Cole's act of 'treason' was predictably ferocious.
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