Sorry Robbie, you're just not worth it
ROBBIE KEANE is gambling with his future after pricing himself out of a move to Birmingham, the club considered his most likely destination in the January transfer window.
The Irish skipper was looking to increase his current £65,000-a-week pay packet at St Andrews, in addition to securing a three-and-a-half year contract and, reportedly, commuting to the English midlands rather than relocating.
After agreeing a fee with Spurs, Birmingham acting chairman Pete Pannu took the relatively unusual step of releasing a politely-worded statement which basically stated that Keane wasn't worth it.
"I met with Alex McLeish and (scout) Paul Montgomery to discuss some new targets -- names that we will not be mentioning at this moment in time -- as we have decided that the signing of Keane would not be in the financial interests of the club," said Pannu.
"Everyone knows he is a tremendous player but having considering the overall package (one which certainly wasn't unfair on the part of his representatives to ask, given his talent and experience), Keane's age and the length of contract, we felt that financially he wasn't the best option available."
The words contained within the brackets are slightly hard to swallow in the context of the rest of the missive. After all, if Birmingham were so interested in the Tallaght man, did they not expect his agents to look for a deal that reflected his talent and experience?
Did they mean to suggest they were trying to get him on the cheap? Hardly.
Certainly, the addition of Keane would have impacted upon their wage structure and, the club's hierarchy are sceptical that the Irish skipper is worth an outlay of approximately £12m over the next three and a half seasons -- although it seems fair to point out that they would effectively have recouped that amount within six months if his goals help them avoid the drop.
Instead, they are turning their attentions to Kenny Miller, an inferior frontman who is available from Rangers for £700,000 as his contract is expiring.
The natural question to be asked in response is why the Dubliner is unwilling to accept a pay-cut to secure regular first-team football following the worst season of his career, where he has endured the ignominy of not even making the subs bench and lost his sharpness to the extent that it arguably cost Ireland two points in a crucial Euro 2012 qualifier against Slovakia.
Keane knows a thing or two about transfer windows, though, and so does his experienced agent Struan Marshall. The Scot is one of the top negotiators in the game, and there's no way he would allow his client to be stupid enough to miss a viable option without a coherent back-up plan.
There are a number of clubs in the market for Keane. They may be clubs engaged in the wrong half of the table, but they are Premier League options nonetheless.
Much as it seems greedy for the Spurs outcast to attempt to improve his financial lot while dropping down the table, his advisors are aware that they work in a business where the ability of clubs to spend daft money should never be underestimated.
The surprise swoop by Aston Villa for Sunderland striker Darren Bent could potentially set off a domino effect that would benefit Keane, although that doesn't necessarily mean the 'two plus two' solution of Ireland's record goalscorer heading for the north-east.
In the past, he refused to countenance a move to the Stadium of Light, and it would be a surprise if he committed to moving to the area on a permanent basis. Also, Sunderland's interest in Keane is believed to have cooled.
In truth, the transfer window bargaining is still at the shadow-boxing stage, with plenty of time left for more twists in the tale.
Keane's representatives will likely be singing a different tune as the deadline approaches, but they are in the enviable position of having a striker who a lot of clubs covet. They can afford to bargain quite aggressively. Realistically, this is the last major contract that Keane will land as a player.
Footballers, like most human beings, will do their level best to avoid a pay-cut even if, unlike most human beings, they draw down exorbitant wages.
In saying that, it's understood that Keane's original preference was a move to Aston Villa, a switch that ticked the boxes of a lucrative package in addition to the tenuous sense of joining an entity with ambitions beyond merely staying in the top flight.
The genesis of the Villa Park speculation came in the Martin O'Neill era, however, where Richard Dunne's encouragement was a factor. Dunne is less enamoured with life under Gerard Houllier and the new manager is evidently more inclined to direct his cash towards the expensive capture of Bent.
So, where does Keane go? The danger in turning down too many suitors is that he's left in a situation where the only party that will match his terms and conditions are a basket-case with questionable long-term prospects. All signs point towards West Ham then, a club that Keane really doesn't appear to be too keen on joining.
There's a large whiff of brinkmanship about the whole affair, a method adroitly practiced by agents with the net return of pushing the transfer window drama towards the dying hours and, as a consequence, ensuring that clusters of expectant fans will swarm around the ubiquitous Sky Sports reporters waiting for someone to throw them a bone.
For Keane, this is feeding time. More than half of the Premier League clubs have been linked with him over the last six months, proof that he retains an allure. In the circumstances, nobody should be too surprised that, with less than a fortnight to go, he is confident enough to make excessive personal demands.
After all, he knows that Spurs are desperate to sell, and need to ship out with a view to bringing in a new striker of their own. They could yet have to dig into their pockets to hasten his departure.
It's a saga which says a lot about his profession. The player may be undeserving of what he's looking for, but that doesn't always mean he won't get it.