Robbie Keane must leave Spurs for Ireland’s sake
Robbie Keane’s disappointing performance against Slovakia last week inevitably led to the suggestion that the Tottenham striker’s career at the top level is over.
Keane missed a penalty and wasted a number of second-half chances in Zilina and the Spurs forward was unsurprisingly made the scapegoat in the Irish media following the disappointing 1-1 draw.
Giovanni Trapattoni wisely deflected any claims of the 30-year-old being past his best, instead opting to reiterate Keane’s credentials and his importance to the national side.
The Italian manager said a lack of playing time at Spurs, where he has fallen down the pecking order and was an unused substitute against Fulham on Sunday, has affected Keane’s fitness levels resulting in a number of subdued displays.
“It was clear he was not fit enough for 90 minutes because he hasn’t been playing for his club,” said Trapattoni. “Maybe he didn’t pass or shoot as quickly as he would another time but we still need his experience.
“Sure, he can’t run like (Shane) Long at 23 or 24 but the very best teams are a mixture of experience and energy.”
The former Juventus manager continued his defence of Keane and when asked if Ireland’s all-time top scorer had “too many miles on the clock”, Trapattoni replied: “If a car has gone for 200,000 kilometres, it doesn’t mean it’s dead.”
Keane burst onto the international scene as a sprightly 17-year-old. He possessed pace, trickery and a clinical finish – attributes which helped earned him a big-money move to Inter Milan early in his career.
A 12-year international career has seen Keane represent Ireland on 103 occasions with a return of 45 goals. However, with the injection of youth into the side through the likes of the ever-improving Kevin Doyle and Shane Long could spell the end of Keane as the ever present force leading the Irish front-line.
Doyle and Long have featured on a regular basis for Wolves and Reading. Should Keane continue to struggle to hold down a regular starting place at Spurs then there appears little option but for him to seek a move elsewhere.
Liam Brady, Ireland’s former assistant manager, defended the ex-Leeds United and Liverpool striker, branding Keane “the best finisher in the Irish squad” despite his faltering performances.
The Arsenal legend added: “If you analyse who we have, Kevin Doyle, Shane Long, Caleb Folan – I would pick Robbie Keane every time.
“I don’t think he has long left at top international level but, at the moment with what Trapattoni has available, I would pick him.”
For now at least, it appears Ireland will continue to rely on Keane’s wealth of experience. His position, however, is clearly under threat.