Friday 24 January 2020

Restless Keane hits road again

Out of favour star hoping for Glasgow kiss of life

Daniel McDonnell

Daniel McDonnell

FOR Robbie Keane, any transfer is possible. There are few footballers who get to join the club of their boyhood dreams on two separate occasions within the space of 18 months. Managers love him, and then they love him not.

The irony of it all is that while the Irish skipper's move to his English love, Liverpool, will be remembered as a failure because it lasted for half a season, the only way in which a switch to his Scottish bit on the side, Celtic, can be deemed a success is if it lasts for the same period of time.

It would be deeply worrying if a player of Keane's ability was viewing the SPL as a home for the long term. Right now, the game in Scotland is in a pretty deplorable state. Alas, a short-term switch, seemingly fuelled by the generosity of Dermot Desmond, will deliver regular football, a confidence boosting dalliance with generous defenders and the ticking of a box in the career goals. Football's version of a holiday fling.

Twelve months after his last-ditch return to Spurs, the obvious question is why the London club are so willing to let the 29-year-old depart. The answer was delivered in the midst of the compellingly excruciating 'Sky Sports News' transfer deadline day wrap where, in typical fashion, the real excitement came after they handed over to Big Ben to bring the official business south of the border to a close. Understated. That's how they like it.


Shortly after the Keane to Celtic story emerged, Harry Redknapp popped up on the line to confirm there was substance to the rumours. Had he spoken to Robbie about it? The answer was no.

Of course, it would be naïve to get taken in by everything uttered by a chairman, player or manager on transfer deadline day. Redknapp went on to praise Keane's character, barely stopping short of suggesting that it would have been morally wrong to stand in the way of a proud Irishman who was fulfilling a lifetime's ambition.

The bottom line, however, is that Spurs, who are genuinely in the running for a Champions League place, have waved goodbye to their captain and a recognised goalscorer who is another person's injury away from being very important to their prospects. It is a risk borne from a breakdown in relations between Redknapp and Keane.

Tellingly, it was the chairman, Daniel Levy, who apparently informed Redknapp of the interest from Celtic and it's safe to assume that he was the figure at Spurs who communicated with Keane as developments occurred. The Tallaght native enjoys an unlikely friendship with Levy, the 47-year-old Cambridge graduate.

Indeed, their alliance was pivotal to the prodigal son's comeback to White Hart Lane. There was no such closeness between player and manager, the latter unaware that his captain enjoyed such a rapport with the club's hierarchy. Indeed, it's understood he was taken aback by it.

By the summer, it emerged that Redknapp was willing to listen to offers, with Sunderland surprised when there was no stern response to a speculative query. That interest remained, yet the strong suspicion was that Keane, now a father for the first time, was happier back in London with his wife. A move to the North-East was unlikely to appeal but the fact that Spurs were listening delivered a message. Managers do not consider offers for the club captain and highest earner unless they are keen to shift them out the door, regardless of whatever spin they put on it.

"He's not a happy man when he's not playing regularly. He loves his football," said Redknapp, in delivering a pretty unconvincing explanation for why he was willing to facilitate a move.

When the link with Scotland first hit the news stands, it seemed dubious to assert that Keane loved either his football or Celtic enough to consider relocating to an ailing league; particularly when you threw in the small matter of his estimated £75,000-a-week pay packet. The days of the Old Firm being major players in the transfer market have long since departed -- the collapse of Setanta and failures in Europe being the final nail in that coffin.

It's not too long since the big Glasgow clubs were able to lure the likes of Brian Laudrup, Ronald De Boer, Paul Gascoigne, Paolo Di Canio and Henrik Larsson to their neck of the woods. Realistically, the most accomplished player in the SPL now is Aiden McGeady, who has stagnated because he has persevered in the relative backwater for too long.

Therefore, it seems remarkable that Keane is about to enter an arena packed with such inferior talents. His sparkling performance in Paris in November, unfairly judged on the basis of one -- admittedly crucial -- second-half miss, serves as a very recent reminder of the quality that has been benched at White Hart Lane. Giovanni Trapattoni only sprung McGeady into that game as a desperate last throw of the dice.

So why is he doing it? There may be some sincerity in his passion for Celtic, yet it seems as though the alternative was a permanent switch to a part of England he didn't fancy, or a period of benchwarming at White Hart Lane.


West Ham confirmed yesterday that when they enquired about Keane, they were told that a fee of £1m for what is essentially a four-month loan would be the price in addition to a commitment to cover every penny of his wage packet. You'd struggle to find many Premier League clubs, outside the elite few, that would consent to such a loan package. The exact details of the Celtic switch remained unclear last night, but the feeling was that Spurs were happier doing business with a club outside their jurisdiction.

Ultimately, though, the final decision lay with Keane and, while it's unquestionably a considerable step down standard wise, it's easy to see the appeal to the ego.

Just like the other Keano, whose Celtic cameo descended into an inglorious footnote, he was greeted by the adoring masses who have already bestowed hero status upon their new acquisition.

Their title hopes are forlorn already so it won't be his fault if they fall short. And there's no pay cut, and no binding commitment in case it all goes horribly wrong. So he can love them and leave them. Like only Robbie can.

Irish Independent

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