Who can afford to sign Keane?
Published 29/01/2010 | 05:00
No transfer window would be complete without murmurs over the future of Robbie Keane.
It's not even a year since the Irish skipper's dramatic return from Liverpool to Spurs and yet the most remarkable aspect of his second stint at White Hart Lane has been the amount of times he has been linked with another move away.
The tug-of-war between Spurs and West Ham over the services of Eidur Gudjohnsen has predictably led to the assertion that it pushes Keane closer to the exit door.
The fact is, Gudjohnsen or no Gudjohnsen, he's been lingering there anyway since the summer, when it became apparent that Peter Crouch and Jermain Defoe were Harry Redknapp's chosen striking pair and speculation about the relationship between manager and player burst into the public domain.
Redknapp is a prolific transfer market wheeler and dealer and is partial to the odd panic buy. If he does capture Gudjohnsen, who has struggled at Monaco, he will be hoping that it proves more successful than bringing Keane back to London last January.
After a turbulent six months at Anfield, where he was never given a proper chance to settle amid the political shenanigans that devoured the mind of Rafa Benitez, Keane was understandably keen to secure a move back to the comfort of the capital, to a club where he enjoyed a relatively happy six years; save for a rocky patch under Martin Jol, where he spent as much time on the substitutes' bench as he has done recently.
Despite agitating for the switch to pursue his dreams at Anfield, the Tallaght man retained a strong relationship with Tottenham chairman Daniel Levy.
Redknapp, subsequently ushered into the Spurs hot seat in place of Juande Ramos, spotted the opportunity to bring Keane back but the terms of the deal, which included regaining the captaincy and becoming the club's highest paid player, make it extremely difficult to push him out the door again.
Redknapp also re-signed Defoe last January and when Crouch followed the same path from Portsmouth in the summer, it was clear that the armband did not guarantee Keane on-pitch security.
Sunderland made enquiries and weren't exactly warned off, but they couldn't afford to add to the purchase of Darren Bent, and there was no indication that the Irishman was keen to move to the North East, particularly after the arrival of his first child.
Secure in the bosom of a comfortable contract, the bottom line is that it would take an incredible offer to make him up sticks again.
While Redknapp has tried -- at times -- to accommodate Keane, Defoe and Crouch into the same line-up, the controversial Christmas party organised by the skipper in Dublin, which morphed from a golf day into an excursion to Copper Face Jacks, did little for his standing in the eyes of the manager.
Since then, he's been largely dormant, although there was a slightly bizarre tribute from Redknapp earlier this week, praising Keane for the manner in which he has coped with his period out of the side.
"Football would be a much better game if everyone had an attitude like Robbie Keane's -- and the manager's job would be a lot easier," he said.
"Even though he's disappointed to be out of the side at the moment, he still comes into training every day bright as a button and he's still in the dressing-room geeing everybody up. He's a big player who has been with the top clubs but he doesn't sulk when he's not playing and he doesn't sit there feeling sorry for himself."
Of course, Redknapp was merely juxtaposing Keane's attitude alongside that of Roman Pavlyuchenko, with whom Redknapp has enjoyed a hate-hate relationship since circumstances brought them together.
A more likely consequence of any new striking arrival is that it should accelerate the departure of the Russian, who has mastered the amusing habit of giving interviews to newspapers in Moscow detailing his unhappiness under 'Arry's regime.
"It's a pity that Father Christmas does not exist, because if he did, I would have asked him for a contract with another club," said Pavlyuchenko, in a festive special.
"I have a general feeling that the coach makes fun of me. Maybe it's true, as some say, that he is taking revenge for the defeat of England (in the Euro 2008 qualifiers) two years ago."
Keane has never courted relationships with the media to accelerate his transfers. Instead, he's got a top agent, Struan Marshall, who has the ability to get the word out if his client is willing to embrace pastures new.
Ultimately, though, for all that Keane may wish to be playing regularly, the deciding factor between now and the close of the window is whether there's an alternative destination worth moving to in his eyes.
He'll struggle to find any club outside the established top four who will match his wages, which are understood to be in or around the region of £75,000 a week, and who also have the spending power to negotiate a fee with Spurs.
Indeed, it's unlikely that he would agree to joining a club further down the table, like a Sunderland, for example, unless they had the capacity to increase his pay packet and justify the inconvenience of moving house.
Aston Villa might hold some appeal, and Martin O'Neill is a fan. Alas, with the respective parties in competition for a Champions League place, it would make little sense for Redknapp to give his rivals a player who is unquestionably a top performer when the mood takes him, regardless of the idiosyncrasies that annoy his many critics.
In that context, it's hardly surprising that a loan solution is being mooted, with West Ham and Celtic both in need of a quick fix and unable, in the long run, to take on a big contract. The new regime at West Ham has even been talking about offering one special player £100,000 a week, the kind of talk that should alert any resourceful agent.
Certainly, it will require a similarly jaw-dropping offer to convince Keane to leave the right end of the table in the name of first-team football. Spurs made his bed and, after a career of transfer speculation, it may well be that he's decided to lie in it.