Jurgen Klinsmann: Robbie Keane is a role model to emerging American players
United States manager Jurgen Klinsmann has held up Republic of Ireland skipper Robbie Keane as a role model for the nation's future professionals.
The 34-year-old Los Angeles Galaxy striker will be back on the other side of the Atlantic preparing for Sunday's MLS play-offs showdown with the Seattle Sounders when his international team-mates run out to face the Americans in a friendly at the Aviva Stadium on Tuesday evening.
However, Klinsmann admits he repeatedly uses Keane, who has scored 65 international goals in 138 senior appearances for Ireland, as an example of what it takes to succeed as a player at the highest level.
He said: "I often say that in the United States, Robbie Keane is a role model for all the American players growing up in this beautiful game.
"That's what he has done since he came overseas, he shows to the young players what it takes to become a professional, how much dedication you need, how much commitment you need.
"Robbie is the same Robbie in training as in the game, so he is huge for MLS because these are the type of players that you need to have in your environment to make the league grow and to make younger players understand what the real big players are doing.
"At the same time, he continues to play for Ireland at the highest level, scoring goals, going back and forth, so I definitely use him a lot as an example how to do it.
"He will leave a huge mark, hopefully a long time down the road, when he leaves the game, with what he has done for MLS over the years."
Klinsmann's team, who were only denied a quarter-final berth at last summer's World Cup finals in Brazil by a heart-breaking extra-time defeat by Belgium, are currently in Europe on a mission to increase the gradient of the learning curve which has seen them emerge as an international force to be reckoned with.
They lost 2-1 to Colombia, currently third in FIFA's world rankings, at Craven Cottage in London on Friday evening, although Klinsmann makes no apologies for pitching his players into battle with that kind of quality.
He said: "What we are trying in our process is to realise how the best teams in the world play the game and how we can one day really compete with them and beat them, so what does it take to beat a Germany? What does it take to beat a Spain or a Brazil or Argentina one day and go eye-to-eye with them?
"They set the tone. The tone is set also coming out of the Champions League, the European Champions League sets the tone in terms of tactical changes that you see in the game or how certain teams are put together by the best coaches in the world.
"We develop things looking at those things, but at the same time looking at our talent pool and seeing how much we can do in order to catch up and see how we can challenge them at the end of the day, because we have our own different characteristics in certain ways."
The trip to Ireland has also brought back memories for Klinsmann, who scored his first goal for Tottenham in a pre-season friendly against Shelbourne in Dublin back in August 1994.
He said: "It was many moons ago. Yes, I have memories about that. Obviously I was at Spurs a few times last week and saw my old team-mates. They are nice memories to have.
"I was surprised how many Spurs fans lived in Ireland - I think there were 12,000 people and 11,000 were Spurs, so good memories."
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