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Saturday, 9 November, 2002, 06:16 GMT
Ranieri hails Cole as best yet
Carlton Cole wins a header against David Perpetuini during the Worthington Cup tie against Gillingham
Cole scored twice in midweek Worthington Cup action
Chelsea manager Claudio Ranieri has labelled Carlton Cole as the best young player he has coached in his 15-year career.


Carlton has a very big future at Chelsea
Chelsea boss
Claudio Ranieri

Cole, 19 on Tuesday, returned to action on Wednesday after two months out with a fractured fibular and scored both goals as the Blues beat Gillingham 2-1 in the Worthington Cup.

Ranieri could now give the lightening-quick 6ft 3in frontman his first league start of the season when fourth-placed Chelsea take on Birmingham at Stamford Bridge on Saturday.

"I've never coached a young player like Carlton," said Ranieri., who has managed Fiorentina, Napoli, Valencia and Atletico Madrid in his career.

"He's fantastic even though he hasn't really started his career yet. He has a very long contract, and, in my opinion, a very big future at Chelsea."

Ranieri will start Cole alongside Gianfranco Zola if Eidur Gudjohnsen fails a fitness test on his ankle problem.

Cole, who scored against Middlesbrough on his debut in April, signed a five-year contract until 2007 in the summer.

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