The story goes something like this. In the final hours of the January transfer window a club struggling to maintain their fourth spot in the Premier League decide to loan out their captain to a Scottish Premier League side for the next six months.
Robbie Keane’s departure from Spurs to Celtic had been rumoured for months with the Republic of Ireland international struggling to hold down a starting place with the North London club. Spurs could simply no longer guarantee their captain regular first-team football so a loan move appears to be the best option for all parties.
“It’s been difficult guaranteeing Robbie a starting place at the moment, so we’ve decided to let him go on loan until the end of the season. It’s been difficult for Robbie, but to go to Celtic is a dream come true for him. He’s a big Celtic man and this move appeals to him,” said Spurs manger Harry Redknapp, after Keane’s transfer was completed late last night.
But does Keane’s transfer strengthen or weaken Spurs’ Champions League qualification bid?
The success of the partnership of Peter Crouch and Jermaine Defoe meant Keane was unlikely to get a look-in for the remainder of the current campaign. The England international strike-force have combined for 27 goals in all competitions this season, continuing their prolific partnership first cultivated by Redknapp whilst manager of Portsmouth.
The re-emergence of Luka Modric from injury means Spurs are also covered in the wide-midfield or behind-the-front-two positions Keane formerly occupied when not playing as an out-and-out striker. The signings of Nico Kranjcar and (recently) Eidur Gudjohnsen on loan from Monaco also offer Redknapp additional striking options.
What does the loan move mean for Spurs?
With all that attacking talent at Spurs disposal it still came as something of a surprise to hear Keane was leaving. The fact Tottenham’s other striker Roman Pavlyuchenko has been rumoured to want away from the club for some time meant the smart money was on the Russian International taking flight before the transfer window shut and not his Irish International club-mate.
Keane – despite not playing regularly – has managed to find the net nine times this term compared to the Russian’s paltry tally of two whilst in a Tottenham jersey. Right now Spurs appear to have enough strikers and goal-scoring midfielders to see them through to the end of the season but injury or suspension to either of Redknapp’s current first choice attacking duo will place huge pressure on a currently out-of-form Pavlyuchenko or recent signing Gudjohnsen to provide instant goals.
Keane’s experience alone could have proven invaluable in the final weeks of what looks set to be an intense battle for the fourth Champions League qualifying spot. Crouch and Defoe have combined for four goals in Spurs’ last seven Premier League fixtures but more are needed (and quickly) with only three wins collected from that period.
What does the loan move mean for Robbie Keane and Celtic?
“I am here to play football, first and foremost. I am no different to anyone else. I could have sat at Spurs on the bench but that is not me, people who know me know that. I love playing football and that is why I am here. I always wanted to play for Celtic, so this has worked out for all parties. I didn’t need much persuading.”
Keane’s words at last night’s press conference in Glasgow. For Celtic, the signing couldn’t have come at a better time as pressure mounts on manager Tony Mowbray to catch runaway league-leaders Rangers.
Diomansy Kamara, Edson Braafheid and Paul Slane were the other transfer-window acquisitions brought in by Mowbray to stiffen his side’s title challenge but none matches the quality of Keane.
Celtic are currently ten points adrift of Rangers but the addition of the Republic of Ireland international striker is certain to reinvigorate their season. Keane also gets to play in a brace of Old Firm derbies where two victories would push his new side firmly back into title contention.
Harry Redknapp has placed his faith in his first-choice strike partnership of Crouch and Defoe to fire Spurs to Champions League qualification and also feels he has enough quality elsewhere in his squad to let his captain leave. Celtic has acquired a proven international striker who will flourish in a league of inferior quality to the Premier and he should score enough goals to make a fight of the title with arch-rivals Rangers.
Robbie Keane has found a club with obvious Irish connections, regular first-team football and a better chance of playing Champions League football if he decides to make the loan move a permanent one.
It looks like a win-win-win situation for all involved.
Ger is author of the book Off Centre Circle, which chronicles the curious life of a West Cork League junior footballer.