Keane looks set for loan spell at Aston Villa

Wed, Jan 4, 2012, 00:00

TRANSFER NEWS:ROBBIE KEANE looks set for a temporary return to the Premier League with Aston Villa, who have initiated moves to take the Republic of Ireland captain on a two-month loan from American side LA Galaxy.

However, it is understood a deal was still at a “very early stage” last night and by no means certain. Aston Villa still have to agree terms with both Keane and his parent club, with those negotiations likely to significantly pick up pace today.

Villa sources also maintain the move is “just one of a number of options the club is exploring”, with manager Alex McLeish having to balance his squad requirements against restricted transfer and wage funds.

Keane, for his part, is understood to have to weigh up a few issues too. For a start, Villa are just one of a number of clubs believed to be interested in the forward.

It is understood Newcastle United are monitoring the situation closely. Manager Alan Pardew will need to bolster his forward line as top scorer Demba Ba will soon be departing for up to six weeks as he travels to Gabon and Equatorial Guinea for the 2012 African Cup of Nations with Senegal. Celtic – who took Keane on loan in early 2010 – are also believed to be chasing a similar deal.

Secondly, Keane must decide whether competitive football would actually be of benefit to his Euro 2012 campaign, which is naturally the forward’s primary concern.

It was announced yesterday that Keane is currently training with his old club Tottenham and there is a certain feeling that, with the MLS set to start again in March, staving off competitive football until then could possibly have the striker in peak condition for the start of Euro 2012.

As it stands, though, Keane wants to continue playing now with Villa the likeliest destination.

Any such move would of course be along the same lines as LA Galaxy team-mate Landon Donovan’s temporary return to Everton and David Beckham’s previous move to Milan.

And a loan to Villa could also prove of benefit to Irish manager Giovanni Trapattoni beyond his captain’s fitness. Keane could deepen his on-pitch understanding with international team-mates Shay Given and Richard Dunne, as well as the rest of the club’s Irish contingent in Ciarán Clark, Stephen Ireland and the newly-signed Enda Stevens.

From Villa’s point of view, the move also makes sense given the fact they have struggled for both goals, invention and – crucially – transfer funds.

McLeish has come under continued criticism for negative football – not least on Saturday when he was booed for taking off Ireland during the club’s 2-0 home defeat to Swansea – and Villa have scored a relatively paltry 22 goals in 20 league games.

Keane would provide more ingenuity while also alleviating some of the pressure on Darren Bent and Gabriel Agbonlahor to score. The Irish captain and record goalscorer would also add experience to a squad that recently has been stripped of a series of senior players in accordance with chairman Randy Lerner’s attempts to drastically reduce the wage bill.

Ironically, Keane’s wages in any loan move could add up €600,000 – the exact amount Villa fell short by when they tried to initially sign the forward 12½ years ago.

And a loan deal would also end a long pursuit of Keane from long-time admirer McLeish. The Scot actually agreed a €7.2 million fee with Tottenham to take the forward to Birmingham City last January, only for the deal to fail when it came to personal terms.

Keane then went on loan to West Ham United before making a permanent switch to LA Galaxy last summer.