Keane has earned the right to go where he wants
Put yourself in Robbie Keane’s shoes for a moment. Imagine you are 31, you have played for eight clubs in three different leagues, you are Ireland’s record goalscorer by some distance and you have nothing to prove.
There’s the missus, the chissler and life after football to think about. There’s a big wedge of cash on the table and it looks like taking it will not jeopardise your chances to continue doing the one thing that has brought joy to your career over recent years; playing for Ireland.
It’s a chance to finally get out of the goldfish bowl that has been your life for 14 years – to escape the same scrutiny, questions and unjustified abuse. There are also new fans and opportunities in an exciting city that hasn’t just been ripped apart by the worst rioting in decades.
Now look at the other options. If they were options, at all.
Bolton is the most attractive, but you’re not mad on the place and they can’t pay you what you’ve become accustomed to. Don’t sneer, this dilemma is factored into everyone’s career path, the amount of money is of little or no consequence.
Blackburn make a call. They offer uncertainty, maybe a bit more money than Bolton, but mainly uncertainty. Oh, and a starring role in a chicken advertisement. Seriously.
Leicester get in touch. It’s an ambitious project in a lower division, led by one of them-there consortia and with a manager (Sven-Goran Eriksson), whose track record of being taken seriously in England is second only to Boris Johnson’s at a community meeting in Hackney.
Which one would you choose?
That’s right, Keane chose the same one. LA Galaxy. And why wouldn’t he?
Never has a sportsman so vital to a nation’s success on the field been the subject of so much ridicule. Roy Keane just divided a nation, Robbie is parodied by the public and press to the point of embarrassment. The old idiom that we are a ‘nation of begrudgers’ is rarely more pronounced than when talking about Robbie.
Yet (and I know this sounds twee), all he has ever wanted to do is play football and score goals. He went to Wolves, Coventry, Inter Milan, Leeds, London, Liverpool, and now Los Angeles to do it. He has never been a contract rebel, never demanded more than he is entitled to and never let down his country or the club he played for.
Liverpool fans might argue otherwise, but to do so would be foolish, considering the soap opera that their club was during Keane’s brief stint at Anfield. Spurs fans cooled on him when he left for Merseyside, but the realists among them will remember him for the 122 goals he scored, the countless assists and the absolute commitment he gave while wearing their jersey and armband.
They’re club fans, however, and he’s not really one of theirs. He’s one of ours, and the most deluded ramblings of all come from Ireland fans.
‘He hasn’t scored against anyone decent’
So, who was that tumbling around Ibaraki after netting against the Germans in the 2002 World Cup? It must have been an imposter who scored against the Netherlands in Amsterdam, or against Italy in Bari, or France in Paris. All competitive games – who was that guy!?
In international football, when you are a perennial second or third seed nation, you are going to face a fair few minnows. Would people have preferred he didn’t score against them?
‘Robbie has no ambition’
A Tallaght boy who moved to Italy aged 20 to compete for a place with Christian Vieri, Alvara Recoba, Ivan Zamarano and Hakan Sukur lacked ambition?
A man who made his international debut as a boy of 17 in 1998 and soon scored the first of 51 international goals later that year is not deficient in ambition.
Beckenbauer, Pele and Best. They all played in America, the ambitionless goons.
‘He’s only listening to the wife’
Yeah, who listens to their wife? Right lads?
I’d wager Robbie doesn’t stay awake at night worrying about what the detractors say, but it must rankle at times, because he doesn’t deserve 99 per cent.
We’ve all cringed a little when seeing him lording it around the pitch after scoring, lapping up the adulation from fans and pointing to the name on the back of his shirt, but that’s just him. He’s still a kid on the green.
He’s also a professional, so he’s going to do what most pros do and factor money into his decision, especially at this stage of his career. And he’s perfectly within his rights to do so.
When his career winds up – at which time he may well have been the main reason Ireland are in Euro 2012 – he has other stuff to think about, so why shouldn’t he go and check out new places? He’s sure as hell not thinking about settling down in Bolton, Leicester or Blackburn.
Good luck to him.