Keane heads back to the Lane

Liverpool’s Robbie Keane is – weather permitting – likely to be a Spurs player once more this evening. Liverpool gave the player permission to travel to the capital for a medical with his former club after receiving a cash-only bid that would limit Liverpool’s loss on the Irish international to around £3m.

It isn’t only the weather that could put the deal at risk: the two clubs aren’t yet in full agreement about the fee and the terms of the sale, but Liverpool have agreed that the medical can go ahead. Keane has said his farewells, but with only hours left until the deadline the two clubs will need to avoid getting held up with too many minor details.

Liverpool released a brief statement early afternoon, a spokesperson saying: “We’ve allowed Robbie to talk to Spurs but we’ve not yet finalised a deal with them for the player.” The Club have also told reporters that Keane can have a medical for Spurs, which is believed to be set to take place in a private hospital in Essex.

Relations within Anfield are well-documented as being far from cordial – and if that doesn’t hold the deal up the relations between Liverpool and Spurs just might. The two clubs were unhappy with each other in the summer: Spurs made public complaints about Liverpool’s approaching the player without their permission; Liverpool denied this but reportedly made a donation to charity at the request of Spurs, an action that saw Spurs drop their formal complaint to the FA.

Keane then joined the club he said was the one he supported as a boy – but Liverpool fans were split on whether or not it was a good deal.

Irish Reds loved him, and many fans had wished he’d signed for the Reds much earlier in his career. But he wasn’t the youngest striker around, and even though he had UEFA “home-grown” status his fee seemed to be very much on the high side. That fee was generally quoted as £20.3m, and has been quoted as such in practically every story about him since. But that £20.3m fee included £1.3m linked to certain conditions relating to his performances. Even so, £19m seemed to be too much in the eyes of many fans.

That said, Liverpool fans as a whole have always tried to welcome any new player – even Paul Ince was given a chance, despite his past as a player despised by The Kop. Keane had no such history with Liverpool, the player doesn’t set his own fee, and if he played as well as he’d played over the years he’d have soon had the fans forgetting the fee. As long as he didn’t do that gymnastics demonstrations when celebrating a goal, and wasn’t referred to as “Keano” when his name was sung after celebrating a goal, he had a good chance of being a special player for Liverpool.

But goal celebrations weren’t something that fans had to worry about for a while, or very much. He didn’t score at all until October, when he got a Champions League goal against PSV Eindhoven. He didn’t score a league goal until November, when he got a brace against West Brom. He scored seven goals in all, five in the league, but he also contributed a lot in terms of his overall play.

When he arrived at the club nobody really read too much into the fact that he was another former Leeds player, surname beginning with a “K”, claimed boyhood Red, taking on the responsibility of wearing Kenny’s old number seven shirt. Hindsight shows that he was yet another number seven not to work out.

The big difference is – assuming the weather doesn’t scupper the move – Robbie Keane not working out at Anfield has been spotted in six months, and the loss should be minimal compared to the amount paid in wages to Harry Kewell during his spell at the club. Rafa’s decision to minimise Keane’s playing time in the most recent matches might have been with memories of Kewell’s regular stays in the treatment room in mind.

The loss Liverpool make on Keane should be somewhere around £3m if the amount believed to have been offered by Spurs is correct, and if it’s accepted. Their £16m offer would, it is assumed, not include any requirement on Liverpool’s part to pay off any of his remaining contract.

Despite the obvious problems between the two, Rafa was believed to be digging his heels in about letting the player leave if it would leave him short on squad numbers. Spurs players linked with Liverpool previously were mentioned as possible part-exchange options, but as the morning went on Liverpool were said to have made an offer for Javier Saviola. Spurs had been linked with the Real Madrid striker this transfer window, but sources were now claiming they had dropped their interest, stepping aside to allow Liverpool to take him and so keep the squad numbers at the same level.

Liverpool will not be able to replace Keane in their Champions League squad after UEFA’s deadline passed yesterday. Saviola would not have been eligible to go into that squad anyway, having already represented Real this season.

Comparisons between Keane and former Reds forward Peter Crouch were inevitable. Crouch was criticised by the press far more than Keane was during his first months at the club, but Rafa stuck with him and in the end had a player who was an important member of the squad. Rumours abound that Crouch only lost favour with Rafa after his Robo-Crouch antics for England, Rafa supposedly feeling Crouch was now somehow not the same person given his new-found celebrity status.

What perhaps did Crouch most harm was that Rafa bought Fernando Torres, and changed his style of play. Torres was essentially a lone striker, with a three-man supporting line-up of players like Kuyt, Babel and Gerrard. Crouch could only really fill the Torres role in that kind of line-up – and with all due respect to the well-liked England forward, how many people would pick Crouch ahead of Torres? Crouch understandably didn’t want to be the understudy to Torres, and off he went to resume his career under his old boss Harry Redknapp.

Redknapp spoke in the press about his interest in Crouch, treading as close as he dared without actually crossing the ‘tapping-up’ line. Ironically for Crouch his old boss once again became his ex-boss when Redknapp replaced the sacked Juande Ramos at Spurs. And Redknapp was once again walking close to that line because he once again spoke in the press about his interest in buying a Liverpool striker.

But Redknapp’s mention of that interest in the press can only be described at most as a minor factor in this potential move.

One factor is believed to have been Keane’s own representatives. Allegations have been made quietly that one of his representatives, an officially-licensed agent who has been involved with Robbie throughout his career, was letting it be known that the player wanted out of Anfield. This isn’t the agent who also represents some of Liverpool’s English players. The agent in question was said to be letting Spurs in particular know that their old captain wanted to go back home.

Of course that is little more than a rumour, one of many that has been bandied about by informed sources close to the clubs and the player.

Another story that has been heard is that Rafa Benítez did not want Robbie Keane to sign for Liverpool.

Variations on that story vary, usually depending on who exactly is the most disliked by the person telling the story.

The basic story is that Rafa wanted to buy both Robbie Keane and Gareth Barry. He had a budget of £20m plus sales. Xabi Alonso was priced at £16m, and of course that was too high for the club looking at buying him. Jermaine Pennant turned down a move that could have brought Liverpool £3m-£4m. Without this money coming in, Liverpool essentially had to choose between Gareth Barry or Robbie Keane.

Rumours start to get muddled at that point. Stories at the time said Liverpool’s board were looking to borrow money to enable both players to be bought – but this was a short-term loan to be paid back on the sale of Xabi, Pennant and any others.

Eventually it became clear that those sales were unlikely to happen, and so it had to Keane or Barry, not both. The other option was to find two completely different players, but there was not enough available to buy both.

Arguments will always ensue at this point that the owners should have put the money in to allow both players to be bought, how we never expected to be in this position. But that argument isn’t really relevant in terms of what happened.

In a club that doesn’t have a Director of Football the manager would expect to be given a budget to spend on transfers, and to get pretty much full responsibility for how that budget is spent.

The board will always need to rubber-stamp his decisions, a financial director ensuring the small print on any deal is acceptable, that the manager is aware of any implications that may come from that deal in the future. But within reason, it’s the manager who is judged by his signings – so they really should be his signings, not the signings of the finance department or anyone else.

It seems Rafa wanted Keane – but when faced with a choice wanted Barry before Keane. It’s easy to see what that choice could be seen not to make a lot of sense – Crouch had been sold, meaning Kuyt and Babel were the only experienced forwards at the club should Torres get an injury. But Kuyt and Babel weren’t really played as strikers very often. There was a shortage of strikers – but no shortage of midfielders.

Liverpool would potentially have Xabi, Barry, Lucas, Mascherano and Gerrard as options for central midfield.

Rafa would argue that Gerrard plays further forward in the 4-2-3-1 formation, and that Lucas is still learning his trade. He would also argue that Barry wasn’t necessarily in his mind only as a central-midfielder.

But – according to those claims – his opinion was overruled. Rick Parry has been blamed by some – it was claimed he decided that we needed a striker more than a midfielder, and so allowed the Keane deal to go through.

Another version is that there was a risk of the Keane deal falling through if any more time was wasted. Ironically, given his alleged record for losing deals due to inaction, Parry was said to have pushed the Keane deal through before Liverpool lost out on it. Rafa pointed out he felt Barry was the priority, but after being promised he’d be getting both he was happy to see the Keane deal go through.

When this didn’t happen, when it turned into Keane instead of Barry, Rafa is claimed to have blown his top. Whether it was Parry’s fault or the owners’, Rafa saw it as Parry’s fault.

Parry and Rafa both have people looking to see them out of the club. Not just people inside the club either. Both are said to brief their own friends in the media, both will find it easy to get a story out that twists the truth to discredit their enemy. A pinch of salt may be needed when reading all the stories about what happened over Keane – including the one that claims Rafa was so incensed when he realised he’d been misled over Keane signing instead of Barry that he actually let Keane know he didn’t want him!

Keeping in mind that the civil war sees Tom Hicks positioning himself as being fully behind Rafa, with George Gillett fully behind Parry, the potential for the truth getting some serious twisting is increased.

But despite that the old saying really has to be kept in mind: There’s no smoke without fire.

Forgetting the names behind the job titles, the manager should be the one making the decisions on how his budget his spent. The CEO should be doing all he can, working with the manager, to spend that budget the way the manager wants. And the CEO should be liaising with the owners, or the rest of the board, to ensure the manager’s budget requirements are known and understood, and where possible are actually provided.

It should work like a team. Nobody’s asking the members of that team, from the owners to the manager, to spend weekends away socialising or sit through videos of each other’s holidays. But if any member of that team is unable to work with the others, he shouldn’t be there.

There needs to be leader – but at the moment Liverpool are led by two people who despise each other. They both want to win the ‘three-legged race’ – but show so many signs of how they will do the opposite of what is best if their partner comes up with it first. And it’s much the same when Parry and Benítez work together. How are Liverpool going to succeed if all those running the race for success are falling on the floor every few yards?

It does seem now that all are in agreement on one point – Keane has to go. If Keane’s agent was speaking to Spurs in the autumn, was it because Keane had been forced out? Rafa’s detractors are sure it’s the case. If that’s true then that is a poor show from Rafa – but why did that happen in the first place? It doesn’t matter if Rafa’s opinion on Barry before Keane was right or wrong – it’s the manager’s job, a parameter he can be hired and fired by, that he makes those decisions. He lives and dies by those decisions – he gets the blame when it doesn’t work out. Unless he can spread word otherwise of course!

Financially Liverpool’s position is subject to a massive amount of complete guesswork. The dollar is now more like 1.3 to the pound, compared to 2 to the pound this time last year – and that’s just one aspect that has clearly improved from the perspective of the owners. If you can get finance, the interest rates are lower. Building costs have dropped dramatically since this time last year – meaning a fresh look at stadium costs would show a much lower price for the project.

It can only be hoped that there are enough factors like this in place to mean that the efforts being made by the owners for new investment – whether it’s to sell the whole club, to fund the stadium or to sell part of the club – will soon finally work out. Not everybody agrees – but a growing number feel that the current situation is actually worse than either owner getting control of the club. The 50-50 situation really must come to an end.

Until it does, situations like what happened with Keane – and the never-ending rumours that put every aspect of Liverpool FC under a microscope – will continue.

Keane’s attitude might have been justified, it might not, but how can anyone tell when Liverpool as a club is so torn apart? The fighting has to stop.

  • At the point of writing this the Premier League announced that they have been granted an extension of sorts to the 5pm transfer deadline. In short there has to be proof that the weather caused delays that would otherwise not have occurred, and there also has to have been email correspondence between the two clubs that shows they have agreed a deal in principle. So Liverpool and Spurs are not able to wait any longer than 5pm to agree that fee and their terms with each other – but if Keane is late getting to his medical the deal can go through formally after the 5pm deadline.

5 thoughts on “Keane heads back to the Lane”

  1. Good to see you churning out the articles again Jim, they have been sorely missed!

    From the clubs perspective not much seems to have changed in the time youve been occupied elsewhere. Off the pitch Hick and Gilette are still trying to get one over on each other and the fans at the same time.

    Regarding the Robbie Keane situation I will be sorry to see him go. I think he has been a victim of Liverpools current power struggle more than anything else and it just disappoints me to think that he really has not been given a fair crack at being a Liverpool success.

  2. Whoever was responsible for the Keane fiasco may be the one who has the biggest say in what happens next. Which, in my opinion, is the most important question in terms of the team and our title chances. Now Robbie’s gone, we have Kuyt and Ngog (plus Babel) should Torres get injured again. Many would agree that we need another striker – but who? And when? Unless Saviola (or David Villa’s) flight to Merseyside was delayed by the snow, we’ve missed our chance and will have to cope with who we currently have in the most important 2nd half of the season in years.

    Any ideas?

  3. Good to have you back, Have to say I’ve missed reading your balanced and well informed articles.
    As a 40 yr old lifelong fan of LFC I find all this infighting so unlike the LFC i used to know and love. The very modest quiet family type club has well and truly gone.The club used to do their talking on the pitch with result after result after result… Oh Happy days …
    Only Newcastle Utd could surpass the ridiculous goings on at our club at the moment.
    Shame for Keane (a life long fan) whatever the reasons he’s now gone.
    But how can Liverpool even come close to winning the Holy Grail now with only one recognised decent striker in Torres? (Wrap him up in cotton wool for gods sake)
    Maybe Steven (It wasnt me) Gerrard , can play in goal, defence, midfield, be a strike partner to Torres, be substitute, kit man and make the halftime cup of tea ! Oh and still be top goal scorer !
    Sorry to be negative but just take a brief look down the east lancs road in Mancland and look at their strength in depth all over the pitch not just upfront.
    The old saying ” First is first, Second is nowhere” comes to mind.

  4. Good to have you back Jim.

    You’re summary and analysis of what has transpired gives a lot of clarity to this bemused and troubled mind. Being from way south, i get many people asking what makes me a red fan. I can point to the fact that when i was a kid my foreign mum bought me a Liverpool kit – probably coz they were the governors back then. Yet its because they always did things a certain gallant way and played a pure and fair brand of football. Mancs have always played dirty, and still do. But we are so off that now. Wether Rafa’s public outbursts or conduct are his way or if its been forced on him, I don’t know. I feel uneasy about him. I do know that Fergi is a devisive so and so – but would you have seen Kenny or Bob do anything remotely similar?

    I wish all the best to Robbie, his passing through seeming to be way too short and sickeningly orchestrated to be like the Good Ol’ Days. Did he really deserve it? To labled a failure??? The January deadline is a Premiership-created anomally that is just plain wrong – Keane could of been a real fave had there been more time. The fun is just starting in this title race and, in my opinion we’ve just lost with his sale. With Villa in the their ascendancy, looking at their front line is a chilling reminder of the gaps in ours.
    Not wanting to be a downer, but if we are gonna win it, and i hope we do, I’m gonna take a break from venting my spleen at our club, until the backroom sort themselves out.
    To win it though, our boys are gonna have dig real deep, and somehow find something to like about the club. I wont be able to help with that one.

    Ilya, London

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