With the start of Euro 2012 just over a week away, Goal.com International's Ireland expert Peter Staunton profiles Boys in Green and LA Galaxy striker Robbie Keane
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|REPUBLIC OF IRELAND U-21
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|PAST INTERNATIONAL FINALS
|2011-12 CLUB STATS|
"Someone was asking if he is now going to be up there with the top players, the Liam Bradys, the Paul McGraths. I think there is no doubt that he is," said Kevin Doyle of his compatriot. Rarely does a goalscorer of such pedigree come along. Robbie Keane is, quite simply, the greatest forward in Ireland's football history.
We are unlikely to see his kind again. His tally of 53 goals from 115 caps is bettered by few in the modern game. Only Miroslav Klose will travel to Euro 2012 having notched more international strikes. At 31, the end of Keane's career is closer than the beginning but he still plunders goals at a prodigious rate. Eight from 10 caps in 2011 show that the captain is still capable of doing the business.
It has been that way since the Tallaght-born striker burst onto the scene in the latter half of the nineties. Here is a player, the country acknowledged. He has gone on to fulfil his potential and more. Keane was an integral component in Brian Kerr's under-18 national team which won the European title in 1998. His step up to the senior game was seamless.
Since his days as a schoolboy player for Crumlin United, Keane was marked out as one to follow. He moved to Wolves at the age of 15, spurning the chance to join boyhood club Liverpool in favour of a better chance of first-team football. Two seasons later he was on the move. Coventry City paid £6 million (€7.5m), a then-record sum for a teenage player, in 1999, but there he waited for only one term. Bigger and better things awaited. Thirteen-time Serie A champions Inter came calling and Keane was bound for San Siro.
Marcello Lippi, Inter coach at the time, has since said: "At that time at Inter, they had a policy of going for young players and Robbie Keane was the best one that I saw. He had good technique and he was a good striker."
His Italian adventure was not destined to be long or fruitful. Lippi was sacked and replaced with Marco Tardelli, who rated Keane as unworthy of a slot in his preferred squads. Tardelli now works with Keane on a regular basis as Giovanni Trapattoni's right-hand man in the Ireland set up.
|"Someone was asking if he is now going to be up there with the top players, the Liam Bradys, the Paul McGraths. I think there is no doubt that he is"
- Kevin Doyle on Keane
A move, on loan, to Leeds United materialised and they were persuaded to pay £12m (€15m) for him once his ability in front of goal was established. From there, Keane moved to Tottenham, where he settled and forged a career as one of the most potent attackers in the Premier League era. Indeed, at present, only 10 players have scored more than Keane's total of 126 Premier League goals; most of which came at Spurs.
Keane eventually signed for Liverpool 15 years after turning them down. He moved to Anfield in a dream £20m (€25m) move in 2008, but failed to impress Rafa Benitez on Merseyside and promptly returned to White Hart Lane only months later. His stock had fallen there too and spent time on loan at at Celtic and West Ham before moving to MLS with LA Galaxy last year. He's clearly winding things down at club level but remains an irreplaceable member of Ireland's squad.
At Euro 2012, he has another chance to showcase his striking prowess in front of a global audience. He has inspired, no doubt, an entire generation in Ireland and the true value of Keane to his country will not be accurately measured until he is no longer around to score goals.Follow Peter Staunton on