Goal.com Profile: Robbie Keane

Goal.com looks at the career of Ireland captain Robbie Keane, the Tottenham Hotspur striker being linked with a possible move to Premier League rivals Liverpool…

Another Big-Money Move?

It was something of a surprise when Robbie Keane’s name suddenly appeared in the transfer gossip this summer. Tottenham’s leading scorer, three-times player of the year and captain in the absence of injured Ledley King, the Irishman seemed a solid fixture at White Hart Lane. But when the possibility of Spurs buying Liverpool striker Peter Crouch was being discussed, the Reds’ interest in Keane emerged. And Robbie, a boyhood Liverpool fan (though he is also said to have supported Celtic, in common with many Irish lads) asked Spurs to keep him informed of developments.

In the event, Crouch was transferred to another of his former clubs, Portsmouth; but the possibility of Keane moving to Anfield has not disappeared. A fans’ favourite, Spurs want him to stay, which is why they have slapped a £20 million price on his head. But Rafael Benitez has seen him as a mobile second striker to complement Fernando Torres, and, with Keane himself expressing interest, it will be intriguing to see what happens should Liverpool meet or go to close to Tottenham’s asking price with a bid.

£20 million may seem a staggering figure, but he is one of Tottenham’s prized assets - and will become even more valuable to them should fellow-striker Dimitar Berbatov move on, as has always seemed more likely, this summer.

And if Keane were to be sold for £20 million, it would take the player's career transfer fees to just under £60 million - making him one of football’s most expensive players ever in terms of the aggregate fees paid for his services. Only the likes of Nicolas Anelka, Hernan Crespo and Juan Sebastian Veron would have cost more.

So what makes the Republic of Ireland’s record goalscorer tick?

 

Wolf Cub

Dubliner Keane married his long-time girlfriend, former Miss Ireland contestant Claudine Palmer, in June, and earlier this month he celebrated his 28th birthday. But his football career began when, having been recognised playing for South Dublin schoolboy side Crumlin United, he crossed the Irish Sea to join First Division side Wolverhampton Wanderers as a trainee in 1995. Ironically, he turned down Liverpool to join Wolves, thinking he would stand more chance of forcing his way into the first-team at Molineux. Sure enough, he progressed through the youth ranks at Wolves and made his professional debut as a 17-year-old on August 9th, 1997, scoring twice against Norwich City. The following season he was Wolves’ top scorer with 16 goals in 39 appearances in all competitions.

His progress had inevitably attracted the interest of Premier League clubs, but Wolves resisted their advances until the early days of the 1999-2000 season, when Coventry City’s bid of £6 million was accepted and Keane became British football’s most expensive teenager. He left Wolves having averaged a goal every three games (29 in 87 appearances in all competitions).

Keane was an instant hit with the Sky Blues, netting twice on his debut, a 2-0 victory over Derby County, and finishing the season with 12 goals in 34 games. Now some of biggest clubs around were after his signature.

 

Off To Italy, Back To Leeds

Nevertheless, it was a shock when Marcello Lippi signed him for Internazionale for £13 million. At Inter, still only 20, he found himself in the exalted company of, but not fazed by, fellow strikers Ronaldo and Cristian Vieri. But what had seemed a dream move for a youngster began to look less enticing when Inter sacked future World Cup winner Lippi, whose successor, Marco Tardelli, regarded Keane as expendable.

Chelsea and West Ham had bids rejected by Inter, and Liverpool were again said to be interested. But nothing materialised, and rather than kick his heels at the San Siro, Keane jumped at the chance of a loan move back to England with Leeds United in December 2000. The deal was that at the end of that 2000-01 season, Leeds would sign him on a permanent basis for £12 million. He’d scored two goals in 13 games for Inter.

Things started well at Elland Road, Keane finding the net nine times in 14 starts before his compatriot, Leeds manager David O’Leary, completed the permanent signing. The following season saw his form dip somewhat and by November he was no longer a regular starter. Leeds topped the Premier League on New Year’s Day 2002, but their financial troubles were mounting alarmingly. O’Leary was sacked at the end of the season, and with Leeds being forced to sell many of their players, Keane was on his way to Glenn Hoddle’s Tottenham Hotspur just before the 2002-03 transfer deadline, this time for a transfer fee of £7 million. His record on leaving Leeds was 19 goals in 56 appearances - though he’d started only 38 games.

 

Becoming A Spur

Keane’s first season at Tottenham saw the side finish down in 10th place, but he personally enjoyed a decent campaign, top-scoring with 13 goals. For much of the following season, 2003-04, Spurs were fighting against relegation, but 16 more goals from Keane helped them preserve their top-flight status.

The next season, however, was a difficult one for the Irishman. Although 17 goals was his best haul yet in a single campaign, he often found himself behind Jermain Defoe, Fredi Kanoute and Mido in the pecking order. His frustration boiled over when Spurs played Birmingham in April and Keane, on the bench, stormed from the dug-out in anger when manager Martin Jol used his third substitute, meaning Keane would not be getting a run-out.

His fit of pique cost him a £10,000 a club fine. Then director of football Frank Arnesen said: "You can be disappointed, it's positive when you are, but you must be careful how you show it…I'm sure he'll train hard and when he's needed he'll be up to it, the team is the most important thing. We don't want to see him go, he's a great player. He wants to play but only the manager Martin Jol can make that decision. It's who he thinks will be best on the day.”

Keane had to train with the reserves for a while, but although his future at Spurs looked uncertain, he got on with it and, when given his chance in November at Defoe’s expense, he grabbed it. By March, his rich vein of form had seen him overtake Mido as Tottenham’s leading scorer. He finished that season, 2005-06, with 16 League goals and as Tottenham’s vice-captain.

 

Milestones With Tottenham

In December 2006, almost a year to the day after being involved in a training ground bust-up with team-mate Edgar Davids, Keane damaged knee ligaments in a match against Middlesbrough and was sidelined. But on his return from injury he struck up a productive strike partnership with Bulgarian Dimitar Berbatov. The pair were jointly named Barclays Premier League Player of the Month in April 2007, and Keane finished 2006-07 with 22 goals in all competitions - the best return of his career to that point. He’d scored 15 goals in the final 15 appearances of the season, including Tottenham’s first on the last day against Manchester City, his 200th appearance for Spurs, who finished 5th for the second successive season.

In May 2007 he signed a new five-year contract with Tottenham that runs until 2012, and by the following December he’d scored 100 Premier League goals - becoming the 13th player to do so in the League’s history. In the 2007-08 season both he and Berbatov notched 23 goals in all competitions, making it his most prolific campaign.

His 100th Spurs goal came in a 2-0 win against Sunderland on January 19th, 2008 - and he reprised his trademark goal celebration to mark the milestone. Last season was also memorable for Keane as he won his first major honour - a League Cup winners’ medal as Tottenham beat Chelsea 2-1 after extra-time at Wembley. By then he wasw also captain of his country.

 

International Career

Part of Ireland’s “Golden Generation” of talented young players coached by Brian Kerr, Keane was a member of the Irish side that won the Under-18 European championship in 1998. The following year he represented the Republic at the World Youth Cup in Nigeria, reaching the quarter-finals where they lost in a penalty shoot-out against the host country.

He made his senior international debut against the Czech Republic in March 1998, and the following October opened his goal account for Ireland when scoring against Malta. He has now won 81 caps, and his 33 goals make him the Republic’s all-time top goalscorer; previously that was Niall Quinn (now Sunderland’s chairman) with 21.

Keane went to the 2002 World Cup in South Korea and Japan, having finished that season’s domestic campaign on the bench at Leeds, behind the likes of Robbie Fowler, Mark Viduka and Alan Smith, and with Elland Road future in doubt. But he proved to be one of the stars of the World Cup with three goals in the Republic’s four games as they went out on penalties to Spain the in second round. His goal against Germany in the group stage - a dramatic injury-time equaliser - was the only goal the Germans conceded until the final.

Steve Staunton made him captain of the Republic of Ireland in March 2006, and when Giovanni Trapattoni succeeded Staunton the Italian confirmed Keane’s captaincy. Trapattoni has compared Keane to Italian goalscorer/playmaker Francesco Totti, noting similarities in their position behind the main striker and in their intelligent link-up play and runs.

 

Did You Know?

Former Spurs boss Glenn Hoddle said when he signed him that Keane was “ideally suited to Tottenham,” and could make White Hart Lane his "spiritual home" for years to come.

Hoddle later said of him: "He's such a bubbly lad that anyone who meets him loves him."

In February 2006, Inter Milan's owner and president, Massimo Moratti, expressed regret at having let Keane leave the San Siro five years earlier, saying Keane was now playing "perfect" football.

Guests at Keane’s wedding in Ballybrack, South Dublin, on June 7th 2008 included Ireland team-mates Damien Duff, Shay Given, Gary Breen, Gary Kelly, Ian Harte and Richard Dunne, plus Michael Carrick and Jamie Redknapp, and current Tottenham club-mates Jermaine Jenas, Jonathan Woodgate and Ledley King.

Particulars

Name

Robert David “Robbie” Keane

Date of Birth

8th July 1980 (Age 28)

Place of Birth

Dublin, Republic of Ireland

Height

5 ft 9 in (1.75 m)

Position

Striker

Teams Played For

Wolves, Coventry, Inter, Leeds, Tottenham, Republic of Ireland

 

 

Career Statistics

Club

Season

Appearances

Goals

Wolves

1997-98

45

11

1998-99

39

16

1999-2000

3

2

Total

87

29

Coventry City

1999-2000

34

12

Internazionale

2000-01

13

2

Leeds United

2000-01

20

9

2001-02

33

9

2002-03

3

1

Total

56

19

Tottenham Hotspur

2002-03

32

13

2003-04

41

16

2004-05

45

17

2005-06

38

16

2006-07

44

22

2007-08

54

23

Total

254

107

Club Career Totals

444

169

Republic of Ireland

1998-2008

81

33

 

Graham Lister