Liverpool have made their first big transfer of this summer, signing Robbie Keane from Tottenham Hotspur in a deal that could be worth up to £20.3m. After passing a medical on Merseyside earlier today Irish forward Keane signed a four-year contract for the Reds, said to be worth £80,000 per-week, and is expected to be unveiled at a press conference tomorrow, ahead of Liverpool’s flight to Spain for a pre-season friendly.
According to the Spurs website, Liverpool will pay the London side £19m for Keane, with a further £1.3m potentially to be paid later, based on undisclosed conditions.
Before the Keane deal was done, Liverpool boss Rafa Benítez had so far spent less than he’d brought in for transfers over the summer. His four previous signings added up to a total cost of £11.5m, with £7m Andrea Dossena the most expensive ahead of £3m Diego Cavalieri, £1.5m David N’gog and free transfer Philipp Degen.
Peter Crouch has been the most lucrative departure at a potential £11m, with the £4m received for John Arne Riise, alongside £3.25m for Scott Carson and £2.5m for Danny Guthrie, bringing in a total of around £20.75m. Jermaine Pennant, Andriy Voronin, Álvaro Arbeloa and Steve Finnan are some of the names still linked with moves away from Anfield, with Xabi Alonso’s future still uncertain.
On top of these sales Rafa is believed to have a £20m net transfer budget; his net spend so far for the summer, including the full Keane fee, is just over £11m.
For Keane it’s a second chance to pull on the famous shirt of the club he supported as a child. He was given the chance to sign as a youth for Liverpool fourteen years ago, but instead chose to start his professional career at Wolves, moving from local schoolboy side Crumlin United. The South Dublin club are believed to be entitled to a small cut of the fee Liverpool have paid for the player.
After Wolves he joined Coventry for £6m, which in 1999 was a record for a teenager. Then his value more than doubled when Inter Milan snapped him up for £13m. This didn’t work out after the coach who bought him – Marcelo Lippi – was sacked by the Italian side and so Keane was soon back in the Premier League, playing for Leeds, on loan initially.
Leeds were still spending big money at the time, and turned the loan permanent six months later for £12m. A little over a year later the financial troubles had hit and Keane was sold to Spurs for £7m.
That proved to be the longest run he had with any club, today’s transfer ending a six-year spell with the London side. In that time he scored 80 goals in 197 league appearances, 107 goals in 253 appearances overall. He was named vice-captain and wore the armband on numerous occasions in the absence of Ledley King, and was very much adored by the White Hart Lane fans.
Surprisingly he has only won one major honour, picking up a Carling Cup winner’s medal last season as his club beat Chelsea at Wembley.
Internationally he became Ireland’s skipper in 2006, and with 33 goals is their all-time top scorer, well ahead of previous record-holder Niall Quinn’s haul of 21. Quinn was just ahead of former Liverpool striker John Aldridge, who ended his career with Ireland having scored 19 times.
Keane shares an agent with Liverpool captain and vice-captain Steven Gerrard and Jamie Carragher, and it seems this link has helped this deal to come off. Spurs weren’t happy, according to their chairman Daniel Levy, who recently claimed he had reported Liverpool to the Premier League for an unauthorised approach. This claim related to Rafa admitting in a press conference, in response to a direct question, that he was interested in Keane. But the admission came after Liverpool and Spurs had already been in advanced discussions for some time. Spurs were annoyed all the more that Rafa’s comments also appeared on the club’s official site on July 10th: “Keane is one of the other names and, okay, we are working on other names. We were in contact and we will see now.”
Spurs now say that they have dropped any action against LFC, in return for a Reds donation to a Spurs charity, the Tottenham Hotspur Foundation. A statement on Spurs’ official site read: “The Club can announce that it has reached agreement with Liverpool FC for the transfer of Robbie Keane.”
It then quoted Levy, who said: “I was incredibly disappointed when I first heard, not only that Liverpool had been working behind the scenes to bring Robbie to Anfield, but that Robbie himself wanted to go and he submitted a transfer request to this effect.
“I have already made my opinion clear on the nature of this transaction. I don’t regard it as a transfer deal – that is something which happens between two clubs when they both agree to trade – this is very much an enforced sale, for which we have agreed a sum of £19m as compensation plus a potential further £1.3m in additional compensation.”
The Spurs site said Liverpool had “acknowledged” how putting Rafa’s comments (which had been on many other websites over the course of the day, including in video form on the Sky Sports website) on their own website was “inappropriate”: “Liverpool FC has also acknowledged that the way its website reported comments of its manager, which were widely covered by the media, was inappropriate and in light of that acknowledgement has apologised and agreed to make a donation to our Club’s main charity, the Tottenham Hotspur Foundation. Tottenham Hotspur has therefore agreed not to pursue its official complaint to the Premier League.”
Keane himself actually thanked Levy, and said he hoped the Spurs fans would understand why he felt he had to make this move: “I would specifically like to thank Daniel Levy for understanding that, as a fan, joining Liverpool is a lifelong dream of mine and one I couldn’t let pass me by. I hope one day the Spurs fans, who have been brilliant to me, can understand this, too.”
Although it seems likely Liverpool will need to sell at least one player first, the pursuit of Gareth Barry isn’t entirely dependent on Xabi Alonso being that player sold. Rafa has spoken before of how Barry would not be a direct replacement for Xabi. Regardless of that, Liverpool will not pay Villa’s asking price of over £18m, no matter how many times Martin O’Neill complains through the press. And the hints that Robbie Keane has been signed instead of Barry are wide of the mark; Keane’s signature has not ended Liverpool’s interest in Barry.
After fining him and banning him from Villa’s premises, O’Neill is now talking about how he wants Barry to stay, perhaps even offering him a new contract. Knowing Liverpool are still very much interested in him, Barry is unlikely to accept that offer, knowing that he becomes more and more affordable the less time is left on his contract.
O’Neill turned down the option of first refusal on Scott Carson earlier in the summer, a fee of £8m believed to have been agreed when Carson first joined Villa on a 12-month £2m loan deal. Rafa is believed to have later offered him Carson for just £6m, again O’Neill unwilling or unable to meet that price. With Carson joining Villa’s local rivals West Brom for just £3.25m, O’Neill could still have stepped in with a better offer and turned Carson’s year-long stay into a permanent deal. Instead he has bought another former Liverpool keeper, Brad Friedel, for a fee believed to be just £2m.
The £10m fee often reported as agreed between the two clubs was believed to include the £2m loan fee already paid for Carson’s 12 months at Villa park, but it did seem to be the fee holding O’Neill back from buying Carson permanently: “We have a number of issues,” O’Neill said in May, “Scott is not our player. Liverpool have the right to do what they see fit at the moment. What I would like to say is that he has come here this season and other than being sent off in one game against Manchester United, he has played all the games possible. He played 35 out of 38 games in the league and overall I am really pleased he came to us.
“Scott came in and he had a lot to face up to in terms of having played for England in his tenure here. All the England players, and especially him, were blamed for their failure to qualify. Then he had the next couple of weeks where he was under pressure. I thought he coped with that pretty well.”
Despite those praise-filled words, O’Neill decided against beating the West Brom bid of just £3.25m, and once again questions have to be asked as to just how much of a budget O’Neill has this summer, and how much his plans might hinge on persuading Liverpool to pay his valuation for Gareth Barry. Although Liverpool’s interest in the player remains strong, the more of pre-season goes by the less effective his arrival at the club could be, and eventually there will come a point where Rafa will look at other options.
But Rafa Benítez will be delighted that Robbie Keane will be pictured alongside him in a Liverpool shirt tomorrow, LFC scarf over his head, after the club have paid what is second only to the Fernando Torres fee in their list of record signings. He’ll be delighted to have a similar photo-shoot alongside Barry, but O’Neill will have to accept a lower fee first, a fee that would still be Liverpool’s third-highest transfer fee of all time.
Keane is expected to be given the number 7 shirt, recently vacated by his former Leeds team-mate Harry Kewell.