Rumblings of the Blues holding a vested interest in the former Manchester United youngster are not new. In fact, the British media has been awash with them in recent weeks.
The two standard-bearers of the story are The Daily Mail and Mirror Football. Originally, The Mail claimed Chelsea were targeting homegrown defenders, with Keane and Middlesbrough’s Ben Gibson on their radar, leading The Mirror to follow up by corroborating their interest in the latter.
And reports this week have followed exactly the same pattern. Yesterday, The Mail reported on a planned defensive reshuffle at Stamford Bridge, with Gary Cahill and Branislav Ivanovic to be phased out and Gibson and Keane eyed as replacements, and today, Mirror Football claim Chelsea are set to launch a £25million bid for the Turf Moor star after making what is described as ‘a preliminary enquiry’.
Intriguingly, the report was published less than two hours after Keane netted the second in a 2-0 win over Watford yesterday evening.
Keane failed to make the grade at Man United, but when you consider some of the other players who fall into that bracket – most notably Paul Pogba and Danny Drinkwater – that by no means suggests he can’t make it at top level.
Burnley initially loaned the 23-year-old during their first Premier League campaign under Sean Dyche before acquiring him permanently at a cost of £2million just a matter of months later.
Last season, he was the bedrock of a Burnley side that lifted the Championship title, notching up the division’s second-best goals conceded record in the process, and Keane has continued to impress upon returning to the top flight, helping Dyche’s boys keep clean sheets against Liverpool and Watford.
In terms of style, Keane is definitively old-fashioned; more Ryan Shawcross than John Stones and more row Z than play out of the back; but that’s not necessarily a bad thing.
As is often the case with English talent, especially those to boast a healthy amount of caps at youth international level, Keane’s £25million price-tag may seem a little high considering he’s a centre-back for a side expected to finish in or around the relegation zone this season. Furthermore, the 6 foot 4 defender’s contract expires in two years’ time – which is usually a pretty good time to convince clubs to sell.
That being said, Burnley turned down a £15million bid from Leicester City during the summer, so whoever they sell Keane to will have to pay more, and in addition to the young-and-English premium, centre-backs are an unusual commodity at the moment due to a lack of those who are seen as genuinely world-class. Take John Stones, for example; he cost Man City a whopping £50million during the summer, but he’s still three or four years off his peak.
In terms of when a bid will be made, Mirror Football don’t really commit. They say Burnley are braced for a bid in the coming transfer window, but that the Lancashire outfit are determined to hold onto their star centre-back until the end of the season.
Waiting for next summer would make more sense in west London as well; at that point, Keane’s contract will have entered it’s final 24 months and Burnley failing to beat the drop could have an effect on the defender’s price tag. Likewise, he might put up more of a fight to leave Turf Moor if the Clarets are back in the Championship.