'I would have been happy to have him as a son' - Mick McCarthy pays tribute to Robbie Keane
Robbie Keane will bid an emotional farewell to the Republic of Ireland next week after announcing his retirement from international football.
The 36-year-old striker will make his 146th and final senior appearance for his country in the friendly against Oman at the Aviva Stadium in Dublin on Wednesday night and then call time on his 18-year career in a green shirt.
Ireland's record goalscorer has 67 international goals to his name, making his debut against the Czech Republic in March 1998 and scoring his first goal against Malta later the same year.
The man who handed him his debut in a green jersey was Mick McCarthy and the former Ireland boss was fulsome in his praise for the Tallaght native.
"He understood the game and he had this side to him, he played like a street footballer. Like kids used to," McCarthy told Morning Ireland on RTE Radio One.
"But he had an intelligence that was way beyond his years as a 17-year-old kid in how he played and how he understood the game.
"Off the pitch, he was such a lovely young lad. Anybody of my age would have been happy to have him as a son. A lovely kid."
Asked why there was an impression that Keane was not universally adored, he added: "When you think of how many clubs he had... had he been at Manchester United and been their centre-forward and scored goal consistently and been a United player like Denis Irwin, Paul McGrath, Kevin Moran or Roy Keane he'd have had that hero status because they were at the one club (for some time).
"Robbie moved on.
"He started at humble beginnings when he was down there with Coventry, Wolves and then it was Inter Milan, Leeds, Liverpool, Spurs. I don't think he ever had one base of fans that really loved him.
"All the Irish fans love him and I think we've all seen him grow from that humble, cheeky kid with the arrogance and impudence on the pitch to this well rounded, well respected senior professional."