Sunday 22 April 2018

American dream on for Ireland captain Robbie Keane

A transfer to LA Galaxy may appeal more to the Ireland captain than months of idleness, writes Dion Fanning

There are obvious reasons for Robbie Keane to conclude that a move to Los Angeles makes more sense than spending his time in a relegation battle and filming fried chicken adverts at Blackburn Rovers.

When Keane turned out for the New York Cosmos in Paul Scholes' testimonial ten days ago, there was a suggestion that it was a project that would excite him some time in the future. But now it would appear that LA Galaxy are his present and are, at least, a more exciting prospect than his alternatives.

If there is to be a deal -- and it is believed that Keane's insistence on a three-year contract as opposed to the two being offered is a stumbling block -- it will need to be concluded quickly. Galaxy sources said last night that they would need to receive Keane's international clearance by 8.59pm Pacific Time today (4.59am tomorrow Irish time).

It is easy to see why Los Angeles is said to be the preferred option of Keane and his wife. There was no official comment from Giovanni Trapattoni yesterday but he is unlikely to have any objections to the player making the move. It makes no difference to Trapattoni's ability to monitor the player as it's as easy to watch a DVD of a game from the US as it to watch a video of an English game.

Trapattoni has always placed an emphasis on his players showing up for Ireland squads, even though LA Galaxy have a game against Kansas City scheduled the day before Ireland play in Moscow.

He will be in Dublin and Moscow that weekend and by the end of October when the American season ends he may be once again looking for a club.

As a solution to his lack of games, any move to LA would offer only temporary respite. Keane would be without a club by the time any potential play-off for the European Championships. Whether Trapattoni or Keane himself would be bothered by the possible lack of football from November to March can be disputed. Despite moving six thousand miles away, Keane might be effectively retiring from club football to prolong his international career.

Keane would be moving to a league with a lower standard than the Premier League, but certainly a higher standard than not playing at all.

Apart from the dubious attractions of Blackburn, it may be a more attractive offer than a Championship scrap with Sven Goran Eriksson's Leicester City. Anyway Blackburn and Leicester will be available as loan move at some stage if he retains the dream of playing for them. On that basis, it's easy to see why the American Dream has more appeal.

Unfortunately there is more than perception to the belief that MLS remains a retirement home for players. It's not quite a statement of infirmity like playing in the UAE but a concession that competitive football matters less than the vague concept of "an exciting new challenge".

This is exciting for the player and his family more than Ireland fans who won't be surprised to see that Keane remains capable of scoring goals against Real Salt Lake or Monarcas Morelia.

Galaxy know this too. Late on Friday night they issued a statement that offered little. "We are always looking to improve our squad and have contacted or been contacted by a host of players during the current transfer window. As soon as we have something confirmed in regards to any potential player acquisitions we will be sure to alert everyone."

As it stands, the club are trying to move Juan Pablo Angel out before they can bring Keane in. MLS clubs are allowed three Designated Player contracts. Angel has one of these, Beckham and Landon Donovan fill the other two. Angel therefore needs to move on if Keane is to come in.

"We've been looking and trying to see if we can add another player to our roster, it's not easy and it'll go right to the deadline if we can make an addition and that's all I can say," Galaxy coach Bruce Arena said last week.

If they can make a deal on that timeline (some reports suggested the deal was already done) Keane will have to defend his choices, aware that a player who has gone for an aggregate of £70m in transfer fees during his career was more tempted by the reported $9m in wages over two years than the footballing opportunities.

He will point to the example of David Beckham when asked how he can juggle life on the west coast with international football in Europe. But Beckham brings up as many accusations as rebuttals. He is a one-man corporation who became too important to England on a corporate level for them to ditch. By the time Beckham moved to Los Angeles, he was also a peripheral figure, no longer the England captain.

Keane's position is different. He had his most consistent period in international football during a time when his club career has been in rapid decline.

He said last week he wouldn't consider Championship football but he may need it for match practice this winter.

Three years ago, he left Tottenham where he had played the best football of his career, for the chance to become Liverpool's number seven.

The story took hold that he was never given a chance by Rafael Benitez at Liverpool but those who watched him regularly at Anfield remember it differently.

By January, he was back at Spurs but things were never the same again. He might head for Sunset Boulevard knowing that it wasn't just the clubs that got small.

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