OHE DIDN'T quite come out and say that since he was a boy growing up in the backstreets of Dublin his dream has been to play for the LA Galaxy under Bruce Arena.
But Robbie Keane stopped just short of an empty boast like that when he said that he was, “excited to be joining the LA Galaxy. I have always wanted to come and play in the MLS so it's the perfect combination for me and a dream come true.” Really, Robbie?
Perfect combination? Dream? Perhaps that's the case for Cesc Fabregas, the other major transfer move of the last 24 hours, as 30,000 fans turned up in Barcelona to see the city's prodigal son sign forms for the club and do a few keepey-uppies, as Barca never really left the heart of Fabregas in all his years in exile in London. But Robbie's move to LA is the clearest sign possible that, at 31, Keane's career is on the wane, and that ambition has seeped away from the Ireland captain for whom glory and glamour have now become driving forces.
Players don't move to a club like LA Galaxy to kick-start a stalled career or to feed a hunger for top class football. Moving to LA Galaxy is the equivalent of Bono quitting U2 to move to Las Vegas and front a showband with the left-overs from The Commitments. Keane has developed his football skills in Dublin, Wolverhampton, Coventry, Milan, Leeds, London and Liverpool, towns where football is often seen as the very pulse of the city. They'll hardly be dancing on the streets of Los Angeles if Galaxy beat Motagua in the CONCACAF Champions League at the Home Depot Centre tonight.
Keane has taken the easy option and taken the money by moving to LA. Perhaps he shouldn't be hammered for that – if any Irishman in his early 30s, with youth on his side and a young family, was offered the chance of a job transfer to a city with warm climate, with mouth-watering wages and the ideal lifestyle, instead of staying in gray, rainy London, would he have to think twice? If a regular 31-year-old Dub, working for a multi-national company in England, was offered a transfer to LA, would he have to think twice and would he be criticised for taking the move? Probably not, but Keane isn't an ordinary lad working in the accounts department of American Express. He's not a lad swapping a job as a barman in the Dog & Duck in Crouch End for a well-paying gig as the cocktail expert at a celeb-magnet on Sunset Boulevard.
He's the captain of Ireland, whose playing career at club level shows a total of one piece of silverware – the English League Cup. In Irish terms, that puts Keane on a par with Phil Babb, Tommy Gaynor and Ashley Grimes. BLINDER Maybe Keane had no other option, as his employers – Spurs – possibly found out that LA Galaxy were the only club out there willing to pay a transfer fee for Keane and also take on the massive wage demands of the Dubliner. Lots of clubs were linked with Keane, and if he plays a blinder in the MLS and shows touches of old, then Premier League or ambitious Championship teams could come sniffing to get Keane on a loan deal over the coming months.
And there's also the risk of being too Anglo-centric in all this, assuming that ‘proper' football begins and ends on the shores of England, and perhaps Keane is better off playing alongside and against international-class players in the MLS than he would have been in slogging it out for Leicester at places like Peterborough, Doncaster and Hull over the next while. But it's just hard to shake off the feeling that, in moving to LA, Keane has accepted that his career at the top level in terms of club football is over. Many do wonder if Keane could not have done better for himself in terms of a new club than LA Galaxy, his chance to play out his career in the sun as a precursor to a possible decision to remain in the US permanently. After three years tasting the lifestyle of LA, the cold streets of Wolverhampton would hardly tempt Keane back to England.
A coaching career in the USA could really open up for Keane if he stayed in the US, as they love coaches who have played at the top level in Europe. For now, the club are excited about landing Keane. “He can be an excellent addition to our club,” said LA Galaxy coach Bruce Arena today. “We're not as clean as we want to be in the last part of the field, not as dangerous, not as multidimensional as we need to be. We'd been looking to see if we could find another player we could add to the roster that has those qualities. “He's an experienced player, a proven player at the club and international level and is at an age where he can still have many productive years ahead of him,” added Arena, who is unlikely to have Keane available for tonight's game in the local version of the Champions League.
“We know once his visa is approved we have to make some moves that will permit us in accordance to league rules to have Robbie Keane here. Best-case scenario would be this weekend. That's really cutting it close.” Keane has some contacts on the ground – apart from David Beckham – who he can press for tips and hints about what to do next. Caleb Folan, who played up front for Ireland alongside Keane in a World Cup qualifier away to Bulgaria, has been in the States for some months now since he quit Hull City for Colorado Rapids. Folan has been forgotten about by Ireland and has forgotten about Ireland, Trapattoni complaining some months ago that he failed to respond to any messages from the Ireland camp about a possible call-up.
Robbie has to hope – and also work hard – to make sure he's not forgotten too.