HE’S THE love-hate figure of the Irish national team. We love him because he’s our captain, our record goal-scorer, a genuinely decent skin, and hope that we can all pull a smoking-hot bird. But we hate him for his histrionics on the football pitch, his flailing arms, his sometimes glaring misses, and the fact that he hasn’t turned into the consistent sharp-shooter he promised in his youth.
Yet this week, Robbie Keane’s reputation took another battering from his critics, many accusing him of chasing the Queen’s shilling in place of the game’s glory.
The transfer history of Tallaghtfornia’s finest has been well documented. Keane has been through more clubs than the Ryder Cup team on a golfing trip to Ibiza. In recent days, the 30-year-old has come under increased scrutiny due to the collapse of his move to Birmingham City (the second time in as many weeks).
Contrasting statements on the wage demands of the Spurs outcast have clouded many people’s judgement of Keane. He’s been accused of seeking an increase in his wages of roughly €75,000 a week, and branded greedy and unworthy as a result.
The Irish Independent led with the headline ‘Sorry Robbie, You’re Just Not Worth It.’ The paper has form when it comes to pillorying the Irish skipper, ever since it decided to castigate him for a night on the Dublin tiles prior to a crucial qualifier against France. (Never mind that the time-off had been sanctioned by the team manager, Brian Kerr or, not least, that Keane was at home in his native city.)
The Irish Times contradicted its rival when it stated that in Birmingham this week, it was reported that, in fact, Keane had not sought an increase in his salary.
The press-release from St. Andrews on the collapse of the deal saw fit to categorically state: “having considered the overall package (one which certainly wasn’t unfair on the part of his representatives to ask for, given his talent and experience), Keane’s age and the length of contract we felt that financially he wasn’t the best option available.”
Keane may have been too expensive for Birmingham but then so are a multitude of other proven Premier League performers.
Footballers are often panned for their ability to give only bland answers to all interrogations, but it does the country’s record goal-scorer a disservice to dismiss what he had to say on the matter yesterday.
“A deal was never really on the table, so I just think that Birmingham was looking for a bit of publicity really.”
It’s worth contemplating that indeed it did suit Birmingham City to eek the story of the failed bid into the public domain.
Alex Mcleish’s outfit were also locked in negotiations to bring the Rangers striker Kenny Miller to St. Andrews for a much cheaper asking price.
What better way to force the Scot’s hand than to imply that he was almost pipped to the post by his Celtic neighbour Keane. It would certainly urge him to make a decision. As it was, Miller decided Turkey was a better option than England’s second city and signed for Bursaspor today.
The transfer window is a game of rumour, claim and counter-claim by agents, players, club chairmen, and the script-writers at Sky Sports News. Keane is perfectly entitled to play it, just like every other footballer.
His previous link with West Ham floundered amid accusations that he had asked for a £1 million bonus payment. This has never been substantiated. It was also reported before Christmas that the 11th highest scorer in Premier Legaue history with 122 goals, was willing to cut his wages by as much as half to extricate himself from his White Hart Lane misery.
What is true, however, is that Tottenham Hotspur are charging a transfer fee of between £4.5 and £6 million, before any talk of wages or bonuses are considered.
With anything up to six clubs chasing the signature of the Dubliner, why on Earth would he drop his wage demands with two weeks still remaining in the transfer window?
The vitriol being meted out to Robbie Keane by some Irish observers, who consider him to be more interested in money than achieving a return to first team selection, borders on the shameful.
They would do well to remember just how many times Keane has changed clubs such is his desire to simply play the game, and, of course, his undeniable commitment to starring for his country.
The fact that he is rewarded handsomely on a weekly basis either way is not the issue.
Wolves, Coventry City, Inter Milan, Leeds United, Spurs, Liverpool, Celtic. Yes, it’s excessive, and he would loathe the tag of journeyman. But better to pack your bags and seek pastures new, than waste the remainder of your career wallowing in obscurity, even if you are being paid a king’s ransom to do it.
Four words: Michael Owen. Manchester United. Where next then for Robbie Keane?