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Liverpool heading in right direction but time against Dalglish

AMBITION died in Robbie Keane the moment he realised that Rafa Benitez was using him as a chess piece and not a striker.

Every move he has made since has been about self-interest and self-defence.

Keane is looking after himself and his family with this move to Los Angeles. Glory is over-rated and they package it better in America anyway.

Just for a moment it looked like Keane had finally found a club to match his own self-image when Rafa Benitez swooped and offered him the chance to finally show everyone what he could do on the biggest stage of all.

Champions League football at last and a chance to make the Kop worship at his feet.

It was a worthy ambition and if he had realised it at Liverpool, would have washed away many sins from previous seasons when Keane bounced from club to club and didn't match potential with performance until he knuckled down at White Hart Lane.

Anfield was a humiliation for Keane and very unfair to him as professional footballer.

Had Benitez really wanted him, it could have been the making of him. But he went back to Spurs for a net gain of £7m to Daniel Levy and while he was gone, Harry Redknapp moved on.

Ever since, Keane has lived a relaxed and remarkably well-paid life, training hard and focusing on Ireland for a shot of adrenaline.

DIVIDEND

He managed to harbour enough strength and fitness to play well for Giovanni Trapattoni and he will reap a big dividend from that at the end of his career.

But to what end?

To have a few seasons longer in the MLS in America playing alongside football's ultimate show pony, the great David Beckham?

Will he feel fulfilled by packing his trophy room – they make 'em big in America – with MLS League titles, if the LA Galaxy manage to win one?

Or will he just be happy to hear the rustle of dollars following into his already bulging bank account and sit back with a contented smile to raise his family and guarantee that they will want for nothing?

The Liverpool affair damaged Keane and the bulletproof shell of brash confidence he wears against the world thickened; “I'm not bothered,” he said with a shrug of his shoulders, even when he was. But rather than be beaten by the system, he hardened his heart and played it with great success.

He's been earning serious money since he was a teenager and Spurs kicked his salary into orbit. Keane's boyhood dreams were probably the same as any other kid. He imagined himself lifting the Cup, scoring the winner and all the rest.

SUPERSTAR

He's done a bit of heroic stuff in his time but not much and he only has a few trinkets to show for his career in England.

Keane has the lifestyle of a superstar yet can point to only one, truly global moment of attention, nine years ago in Japan, when he scored that never-to-beforgotten last-gasp equaliser against Germany.

Yet even that avenue may be closed to him by his move to LA. It's one thing to play the odd reserve game or a Europa League fixture and give Trapattoni your best 90 minutes every so often. It's another thing altogether to play a game in America, travel back to Dublin and then on to, say, Kazakhstan and expect to be fit enough to earn a very significant wage packet when you return to Los Angeles maybe 10 days later.

Ireland usually play about six competitive games a year. So that's a dozen long-haul trips on top of a full fixture list with the LA Galaxy and that's before you even mention the fact that he might have to find a way to stay fit during the MLS break in case there's a tricky World Cup qualifier in February or March.

In short, Euro 2012 is likely to be Keane's swansong even if he continues to assert, as he has done several times, that he will play for Ireland as long as he is fit.

There's something very sad about this and, while sympathy for Keane seems inappropriate when he has just increased his worth, it is never easy to watch pragmatism overtake boyhood dreams.


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