Well it seems like we’ve reached the end of what was one of the most disappointing transfer sagas in football history. Robbie Keane’s Â£12million move back to Tottenham yesterday signalled the end of a nightmare half-season for the Republic of Ireland strike, and Liverpool.
Never able to find his feet consistently in front of goal, struggling to give Rafa Benitez a reason to keep him in the first team, Keane now returns to where he came from at a loss of money ‘“ and striker – for the Reds.
This morning’s papers look for ways to explain the saga, pinpointing blame and trying to fathom why the transfer of one of the Premier League‘s most prolific strikers just didn’t work out.
Former Liverpool and Spurs midfielder, and son of Spurs boss Harry Redknapp, Jamie, says in this morning’s Daily Mail that Benitez got it all wrong from the start.
He hasn’t always been treated very well at Anfield. Being left out of the 18 for the matches against Everton and Chelsea will have hurt Robbie. It was not good man-management by Rafael Benitez of a confidence player.
Kevin McCarra of The Guardian explains utter bemusement around Anfield as Keane’s departure means Fernando Torres is the only recognised striker at the club now, with possibly Liverpool’s most vital half-season since the start of the Premier League to go until the next transfer window.
In Liverpool, there was bemusement from Liverpool’s feuding co-owners co-owners George Gillett and Tom Hicks that the club could contrive to make a considerable loss on a player who was signed in a deal worth Â£20.3m in the summer. Gillett and Hicks were back at Anfield yesterday for a board meeting where they reluctantly approved the deal at Benitez’s request. There was incredulity at the club that Benitez would let Keane go having failed to sign a replacement, a bid to sign Javier Saviola on loan from Real Madrid having fallen through.
Having said that, Benitez’s tactics this season have shown that matches can be won without neither Torres (who has been out injured for a large portion of the campaign) and Keane (who was out of favour), and the worry that we don’t have enough depth up front may be unnecessary.
Ian Herbert of The Independent puts the blame more from Benitez and onto Keane’s shoulders. He says Keane never found a partnership with Torres that Benitez so desperately envisioned when signing him last season. On paper the Keane-Torres partnership would have worked a treat, but like so many times in football, on the pitch it just didn’t work.
Herbert also points out personal problems as a possible indicator that Keane’s departure from Anfield was always heading back to London.
One of the factors in the back of Keane’s mind as Spurs returned with their second, Â£16m bid was his wife Claudine Palmer’s desire to develop TV and modelling career. She had not entirely settled on Merseyside and felt she had more opportunities in London. Keane will still head back to north London tormented by what might have been. Five goals from 16 starts his Liverpool record seems modest but he has always been a slow starter: not once has he scored more than three goals from his first 11 games in his fruitful past five years.
Meanwhile, beyond the Keane debates there’s more reports of backstabbing and unrest in the Anfield boardroom. Co-owner George Gillet openly criticises Benitez’s recent public refusal of the new contract the club have offered him.
Gillett’s exasperation with Benitez was revealed when he reportedly told the Spirit of Shankly (SOS) fans groups at the weekend that Benitez’s outburst against Sir Alex Ferguson had contributed to Liverpool’s recent form. ‘œA few weeks ago, we were in first position, then a certain individual from the club attacked another individual from another club, and, since then, we have lost form and slid down the league,’ Gillett told SOS’s Jay McKenna. Keane’s dream may be over but he may now be in a better place.
Meanwhile his ‘œbusiness partner’ Tom Hicks still hasn’t given up on trying to convince a Kuwait-based consortium to invest in the club. From this morning’s Daily Mail:
Hicks took his Middle Eastern party to visit the Liverpool training ground on Saturday where they met with manager Rafa Benitez. The Arab entourage included the son of Rafed Al-Kharafi, who has been the clan’s chief negotiator with Liverpool since the Kuwaitis first looked at buying the club a year ago.
There may be trouble ahead, but who knows, Keane’s return to Spurs could prove to be a brilliant piece of business if Rafa goes on to lead us to Premier League glory this season.