Keane at crucial juncture in lengthy journey
Irish skipper needs yet another high-profile move to breathe life into stagnating career
Published 17/05/2011 | 05:00
Where to now for Robbie Keane? It is a familiar refrain, so familiar that even the casual football fan must think they are suffering from deja vu as his future once again comes up for discussion.
Here is a man who has made so many moves throughout his career that, at this point, he could probably argue that the imposition of transfer deadlines is a restriction of employment.
Certainly, in the past couple of years, he's made a few decisions that, within a few weeks, must have left him longing for a real-time rewind button.
Surely, nothing can compare to the misery of his stint with West Ham, which started well, was curtailed by injury, and concluded with a series of embarrassing misses which contributed to the Hammers' relegation which sends him back to square one.
It means that Keane will turn up for Irish duty next week as a Tottenham player. As a consequence, he will spend a portion of that time telling people that he is a Tottenham player until someone tells him different.
By now, everyone knows the script. There's been two years of rehearsals, after all. Harry Redknapp will speak of a top pro who is great to have around the dressing-room, even though it's clear he would rather have other strikers in his dressing-room.
Keane, who retains what is in many ways an admirable determination to present a confident front in public, will insist that he is not too bothered or worried about his current situation.
How could he not be, though? Ireland's greatest striker has enjoyed a consistent career at the top level which is often underestimated. However, the last nine months in particular have offered an ugly contrast.
The Dubliner is still only 30, yet he has looked older in recent weeks, suffering the indignity of being dropped to the bench for the pivotal games of a club that he was supposed to save.
He should be bothered by that. It's certain that he is, but he's not the kind to use a press conference to open his heart.
Instead, his character will be defined by the response he makes to a low point in his journey.
1 Stay at Tottenham
Considering he's on an attractive £70,000-a-week wage packet, the Tallaght man could opt to hang around White Hart Lane and battle for his place.
Pros: He continues to earn a king's ransom and live a good life in the greater London area which will keep the family happy. Spurs could have a busy schedule with European football thrown in, so there could be opportunities.
Cons: It's pretty obvious that Redknapp doesn't rate him any more and he would only get game time when preferred options are unavailable. Hardly going to regain flagging confidence that way.
Prospects? 2/10: Surely not, Robbie?
2 Another Premier League club
As much as Keane's reputation has been damaged by his West Ham efforts, he is hardly alone in that category and many of his colleagues will still secure Premier League employment.
There will be some managers prepared to take a punt on Keane; it just depends on his reaction to the attention.
Pros: Obvious enough really, the opportunity to line out regularly in the top flight with, hopefully, an injury-free pre-season under his belt. QPR and Norwich aren't a million miles away, so it's possible he might be able to find a club which wouldn't require major upheaval.
Cons: It will be difficult for Keane to find a permanent suitor to match his existing wage, so he will have to make that sacrifice. Unlikely that Spurs will agree to another loan move, and West Ham displays will have reduced Tallaght man's bargaining power.
Prospects: 8/10: The most likely scenario if he is open-minded on the salary terms.
3 Drop to the Championship
Craig Bellamy took a similar course of action this season, albeit in slightly different circumstances, with Cardiff offering a certain emotional attachment and Manchester City reluctant for him to join other possible options.
Pros: At this stage, Keane just needs to be playing football, and if he could find an ambitious club with clear promotion aspirations then it could offer some appeal.
Cons: No obvious candidate in London -- aside from West Ham, ironically -- so would likely have to move plus accept a paycut. With Irish strikers performing well at the top level, might compromise his international situation.
Prospects: 4/10: Difficult to see it developing unless a moneybags club throws silly money around.
4 Go back to Celtic
They loved him there before, and he scored plenty of goals in his brief stint at Parkhead. Neil Lennon would be extremely keen to bring him north of the border.
Pros: A league where goals should come his way would bring the swagger back, and he is a player who thrives on confidence so that could carry over into his international form. An opportunity to be involved in European competition as well.
Cons: The obvious counterpoint is that he would be lining out at a standard which, taking into account the entire league, is lower than the Championship. Oh, and the payscale issue again.
Prospects: 6/10: At this stage of his career, it could actually be the right move. However, suspicion lingers about the middle ground on the finances.
5 To America or beyond
He was linked with a move to the MLS before the West Ham option materialised, with clubs in that part of the world willing to splash the cash for marquee names.
Pros: An exciting new adventure, a climate and lifestyle that would surely appeal to the family, and Giovanni Trapattoni has stressed that it wouldn't affect his standing in the Irish camp -- the recent recall for Colorado Rapids' striker Caleb Folan backs that up.
Cons: A danger of being out of sight and out of mind with regard to the English game if the move didn't work out. Might be difficult to return at a reasonable level.
Prospects: 5/10: Could prove to be the final move of his career -- not the next one.