Anyone who has followed Joe Cole's career with any interest will know how long he has coveted a role as a classic central playmaker.
An outlandishly gifted teenager, who first caught public attention for his show-stopping role in West Ham United's 9-0 annihilation of Coventry City in the 1999 FA Youth Cup final, Cole was used in various positions at Upton Park before seeming to find his true vocation as a wide player at Chelsea.
Jose Mourinho's tutelage made Cole a more disciplined and therefore more effective attacking player. Chastised by the coach for playing to the crowd after netting the winning goal in a league game against Liverpool in October 2004, he quickly realised that to become a top-rank international player he would have to cut down on the party tricks that had gilded his rise to prominence.
In time, Cole learnt to harness his talents for the good of the team and there was no more fitting demonstration of this marriage of flair and efficiency than the goal he scored in the title-clinching 3-0 defeat of Manchester United in May 2006, when a quick-witted shuffle took him away from three defenders before he beat Edwin van der Sar with a sure-footed shot.
Having suppressed his desire to pull the strings from central areas, he appeared to have avoided falling victim to the innate English mistrust of technically exceptional players that stalled the careers of playmakers like Rodney Marsh and Matt Le Tissier.
However, after injuries disrupted the final years of his Chelsea career, he joined Liverpool in July 2010 amid a haze of uncertainty. Why had Chelsea not offered him a new contract? Was he a busted flush? Had the cruciate ligament injury he sustained in 2009 stolen his powers of acceleration? And would he finally be given a chance to play in the centre?
He was, but his failure to seize the opportunity saw him swiftly restored to the flanks and then dropped altogether. Roy Hodgson - who admitted Cole's transfer had been instigated prior to his own arrival - gave short shrift to the player's subsequent complaints. "You'll have to ask him what isn't working," said Hodgson in December last year. "If he says the only place he can play is behind the striker, he is limiting his chances of playing here."
Cole's decision to join Lille, amid reported interest from several English clubs, came as a surprise but perhaps it merely reflects his desire to shake off the perception that he is only effective in wide positions.
Asked where he saw himself playing, his telling reply was that he hoped to be deployed as one of the central midfielders in the French champions' trademark 4-3-3.
With Eden Hazard and Dimitri Payet barring his way on the flanks and captain Rio Mavuba a certain pick, Cole's best chance of winning a first-team place may rest on his ability to dislodge either the combative Florent Balmont or the more progressive Benoit Pedretti, who was signed from Auxerre to replace Yohan Cabaye.
A 4-2-3-1 with Hazard, Cole and Payet in the attacking midfield band would certainly not want for creativity. Cole could be forgiven, however, for the odd envious glance sideways at Hazard. At 20, the Belgian possesses a searing pace that Cole never had and is embarking upon what promises to be an extraordinary career.
Lille president Michel Seydoux has praised Cole's "intelligent" views on the game and the thoughtful 29-year-old will hope his technical qualities allow him to win the trust of his new employers in a way he managed only fleetingly in England. Cole may never again dazzle as he did in his fearless West Ham youth team days, but he will at least hope to prove once and for all that he can handle the spotlight on centre stage.