When Robbie Keane returned to Tottenham from his six-month stint on Merseyside the usual optimism of a new signing was overshadowed by a sense of reluctance. Reluctance that his boyhood dream hadn’t worked out the way he had hoped, that he had to admit that he had made a mistake. It was almost like Keane was, with his tail between his legs, asking his wife to take him back after cheating on her with a glamorous model. They could try and work out their old differences – maybe with Harry Redknapp as their new marriage counsellor – but ultimately some of the old spark had fizzled out.
Keane himself is brutally honest about the fact that he needs regular football; he can not spend time on the bench and come back straight into the starting line-up in peak condition. He is a prime example of someone who can score goals regularly, but only if enough faith is invested into him and time is afforded to him. Once it became clear that Redkanpp’s preferred partnership was Defoe and Crouch, and a small re-emergence of Pavlyuchenko, Keane’s minutes on the pitch began to diminish. Within a year of rejoining the club, he was at Celtic (another boyhood dream and supported club, maybe there’s more?) for a six-month loan deal.
Now back at Spurs, there seems to be a clause in his commitment to the club: he’s happy to stay, but only as long as his needs are met. It’s difficult to criticise a player because they want to play games, but there is a growing sense that Keane could move on as soon as the chance arises. What would really help Redknapp, would be if Keane told him that he was aware of the situation, and had taken in account the amount of fixtures this season, the Champions League, the need for four quality strikers and was prepared to play the role needed by the club. This all may be slightly idealist, but if he has a love for the club, he will put their interests to the top of his agenda.
Keane isn’t the only player to try and re-create past glories. Robbie Fowler was re-signed by Rafa Benitez in 2006 after five years away from Anfield. Fowler was never going to hit the heights of his previous spell at the club, mainly because they were such high standards in the first place, and 18 months yielded just 12 goals before he moved to Cardiff, Blackburn and onto Australia. For some, it was great to see Fowler in a Liverpool shirt again, but for others, it tainted the gloss on a distinguished career at the club.
Shaun Wright-Phillips is trying to rebuild his career back at Man City. Three years trying to break into the Chelsea first team wasn’t what he had intended when he moved, and now he is left in the same situation, only at the club where he was idolised previously.
Even Sol Campbell’s return to Arsenal, was more out of desperation than anything else. With Willian Gallas sulking, and his defence blighted by injuries, Arsene Wenger needed a short-term solution. There was never going to be any real prospect of him staying at Arsenal afterwards, because for for a team as good as Arsenal, he simply isn’t good enough any more. If he was, Wenger wouldn’t have let him go in the first place.
Tottenham fans can now never be sure if Robbie Keane is committed to their club. He has left twice in the last two years to go to teams he has a greater affection for. The six years at Spurs before those transfers saw him give everything he could for the club, but any bond between him and club vanished a long time ago. Do Spurs really want a player who may orchestrate a move away at the earliest opportunity?
What do you think? There are successes as well – Ian Rush, Juninho, Jermaine Defoe?