Robbie Keane – International Man of Mystery

by Robbie Deighan

At 33-years-old, Friday night’s 2-1 home defeat to Sweden has almost certainly ended Robbie Keane’s hopes of playing in one last international tournament for his country.

The LA Galaxy striker’s 60th international goal unfortunately wasn’t enough to overcome a superior Swedish side at the Aviva.

The Irish captain will be 36 by the time EURO 2016 comes around. Considering he is currently enjoying semi-retirement by playing his club football in the United States, it seems very likely that the three remaining games in Group C could be Keane’s last in a green shirt.

As the stats will show, Robbie has undoubtedly been Ireland’s most important player for over a decade, since Saipan, yet since his disastrous spell at Liverpool he has become somewhat of a figure of ridicule in football, even for Irish fans.

The comments from ‘the greatest fans in the world’ are there for all to see. Just browse Twitter or Facebook before an Ireland game to see supporters bemoaning Keane’s inclusion in the starting XI, while offering no real alternative.

They offer no alternative because there is no alternative worth taking. Robbie Keane has been sensational at international level. 60 goals in 128 games. For Ireland. As some of his admirers have pointed out, that’s more than Romario, Thierry Henry, Bobby Charlton, and Gabriel Batistuta. Indeed, in the history of international football only 16 players have bettered Keane’s record of 60 strikes.

41 of those strikes have come in competitive games. He has hit in the net in qualifiers against the likes of Italy, France, and Holland, while in the 2002 World Cup he scored against Spain and was the only player in the tournament besides Ronaldo to put the ball past Germany’s Oliver Kahn. Perhaps more importantly, Keane consistently puts the lesser sides to the sword, a trait which has yet to be picked up by the likes of Shane Long and Kevin Doyle.

These are not just past glories either. 28 of the Tallaght native’s goals have come under the current manager, meaning Keane is responsible for 32.5% of the 86 goals scored under the Trapattoni regime.

Looking closer, Trap has taken charge of Ireland for 27 qualifiers to date. In those 27 games Ireland have scored 34 times. Keane claimed 15 of them, meaning he has scored 44% of the goals that have aided our task of qualifying for major international tournaments under Trap.

Five came in the campaign for South Africa 2010, the successful quest to reach EURO 2012 also yielded five goals, and Keane currently stands on five in the increasingly hopeless task of claiming second place in Group C.

In the two-legged play-off games against France and Estonia respectively, Keane scored in both away ties; one in Paris and two in Tallinn.

Even at 33, the idea of relying on Shane Long, Kevin Doyle or Conor Sammon in Keane’s stead isn’t worth thinking about it. The trio have mustered ten competitive goals for Ireland between them. League One striker Doyle is responsible for nine of them. His career has nosedived in recent seasons, and as he is turning 30 this month he has little time to arrest his decline.

When Keane retires, Ireland will lose one of the great international strikers. Yet, because of a hot and cold club career and a tendency to describe every other transfer as a ‘dream come true’,  the departure of Ireland’s top ever goalscorer and record appearance maker will probably be met with encouragement by a section of the support, but when Ireland search for goals in the post-Keane era, they will surely remember him as the finest Ireland striker of all time.

26 Responses

  1. Fergus Cafferty says:

    Wow, Matt. So, you’re the type of character who throws out insults at complete strangers from the safety of the internet, good to know.
    You’ve also a great talent for trawling Google, and cherry picking any stat that suits your point of view, ignoring a fair and balanced view. And if the stats you find don’t suit, you just announce that stats are rubbish. Try politics Dude, you’re well suited.
    Your good friend Puskas, whom I’m sure you saw play many times, was a product of a different era. A time when lads showed up at a world cup as complete unknowns, and if they excelled, clubs with big egos, like Real Madrid or Inter, would take out the checkbook and sign them up. Maybe he’d have done as well nowadays, maybe there are 10 lads from West Africa and 10 from South America with impressive Youtube highlights ahead of him, who knows? You just can’t compare players across decades, the game and the world has totally changed. I’m sure you’ll re-read his bio on wiki and cherry pick some nugget to refute that, good man.
    As for Robbie Keane, he’s rubbish because Ferguson never bought him, right? He played for Inter, Spurs and Liverpool, 2 of those clubs have won the Champions League in recent tines, but they’re not top Manchester United so don’t count in your blinkered outlook.
    A million reasons dictate which player suits which club at a given point in time, financial reasons abound, it’s rarely based on pure ability. And even when they go, sometimes it just doesn’t work out, even Ferguson will admit that. It clicked for Robbie on some transfers, he was incredible in his first stint at Spurs, both him and Berba got big transfers and neither ever truly excelled at club level again.
    But why did you focus so much on the club career of a guy whos international exploits were being debated? More cherry picking? Form between the two sometimes is interchangeable, like Van Persie, sometimes it’s not, like Messi. Again, all down to whether a player is the right fit for a team, and the different style of play internationally.
    You claim his international tally doesn’t count because now there are loads of easy new countries (Serbia, Croatia and Ukraine perhaps?), and there are loads of games. If so, why isn’t every current striker scoring like Robbie. And there are dozens of teams with a dearth of talent where a top player can get a long run of caps, how come they don’t score as many?
    The simple fact remains that Robbie’s tally while playing for such a poor team is very impressive. Nobody said he was the greatest player in the world, as you seem to suggest we did. But seriously, Matt, the cherry picked stats and primary school insults are tiresome.

    1. Matt says:

      Come on!! You must admit that the leper analogy was a cracker? And the Beethoven / Rihanna comparison must have raised a smile?

      Laugh a little. I read over all I wrote and can’t, for the life of me, see what would cause such offence. While it’s true that the nuances of speech are often lost online, the raised eyebrow, the knowing wink, I’d have thought the overall tone was obviously playful. Telling someone to have fun with lepers – how could that possibly be anything other than pure absurdist humour?

      Having said all that – if it genuinely caused you offence then I’m genuinely sorry. But then perhaps, and I’m just throwing this out there, you shouldn’t be so quick to assume that you’re being insulted? Surely the very fact that someone bothers to reply is a compliment? At the very least it means your opinion has caused a response and surely that can’t be anything but a good thing?

      Not everyone online is a troll spoiling for a fight! And as for Puskás, my father brought me to see the ’54 cup final, he was stationed in Germany after the war. I was 7 years old and it was my first time ever at a football match. Funny thing is – do you know my memories of the day are all in black and white? Framed not by true recollection but by pictures and stories. I never saw him play again.

      And maybe when you get to 66 you’ll find it easier to compare talents across generations. I bet you one thing – people will still be talking about Pele and Puskás while nary a soul will remember poor old Robbie.

      That’s a total lie! I never saw him play. But I never saw Monroe in the flesh either. I still think she was smoking hot!

      If you’d like to see more of Puskás there was a brilliant doc made in the last few years, called Puskás Hungary. Or if docs aren’t your thing then look for Das Wunder Von Bern, the best narrative football film of all time. It’s not about Puskás, per se, but you can instantly see how he strode like a colossus across world football and how a young Adi Dassler sowed the seeds of a behemoth of a corporation.

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