The Cathal Dervan Column Unlucky Seven for Keane

Monday was officially Groundhog Day. I'll say that again. Monday was officially Groundhog Day. Monday was officially Groundhog Day. I'll say that again... Okay, okay, you get the picture. Monday was the day that Bill Murray went out to play over and over again in the famous movie that is still worth a repeat viewing, pun intended. Groundhog Day this year was also transfer deadline day in England this season, and the coincidence was never more appropriate for one Robbie Keane. The captain of Ireland became the captain of Tottenham again at around midday American time on Monday when he returned to Tottenham Hotspur with his tail between his legs less than six months after leaving London for Liverpool. When Keane made a shock £20 million sterling move to Anfield late last July he was full of the joys of spring as he signed for his boyhood idols. When Liverpool presented him with the club's most famous shirt, the one with the number seven on the back, Keane was in seventh heaven, pun again intended. He spoke openly of following in the footsteps of Kevin Keegan and Kenny Dalglish, the two maestros who had made that number so special in the history of one of England's great clubs. Keano spoke about building a formidable relationship with the great Fernando Torres, the Spaniard who inspired his country's European Championship victory last summer. There were references to Christmas mornings and Liverpool shirts under the tree at home in Tallaght, stories of afternoons kicking ball outside his family home with that red shirt proudly displayed for all to see. Liverpool and Keane was a match made in heaven - or so he thought last July. The six months since then have been a big disappointment for Keane and for the club that bought him for that outrageous amount of money. Underutilized by Rafa Benitez, the manager who talked him up on that first day together, he had become a peripheral figure in the greater scheme of things on Merseyside in recent weeks. And the writing was well and truly on the Kop wall for Keane last weekend when Benitez held his weekly press conference ahead of the must win game against Chelsea. On Friday Benitez positively bristled every time he was asked about Keane's regular absence from his first team plans. Finally the Spaniard, who has seen his team blow the Premier League lead and hand it back to Manchester United in recent weeks, snapped. "The club spent £20 million on Robbie Keane. The club," ranted Rafa as one Keane question too many came his way at Melwood. By Saturday afternoon Liverpool fans were well aware that Keane was out of the squad for Sunday's game against Chelsea and a 2-0 victory, both goals scored by Torres, that the Dubliner watched from the Anfield stands. Sitting on that seat was to be Keane's last act as a Liverpool employee, even if Benitez bizarrely claimed afterwards that he expected to keep the player past Monday evening's transfer deadline. At that stage the dye was already cast, and Keane's former club Spurs were already in negotiations to bring their former striker back and restore him to the captain's role at White Hart Lane. His Liverpool career, the career he dreamed of as a kid, was over after just 19 games and only five goals when Keane signed for Tottenham again just before the deadline closed. Liverpool lost a cool £6 million on the deal and Keane lost face, no matter how much he tries to disguise it. It's not the first time in his career that his credentials as a really top player at a top club have been cast in doubt. Don't forget his tenure at Inter Milan lasted only months, but perhaps this time Robbie is more sinned against than sinning. We now know that the decision to buy him was taken by the club, most probably by chief executive Rick Parry, and not by the manager Benitez. The Spaniard is currently stalling on new contract talks for that very reason - he wants full control in all transfers, hence his reference to the club paying the money for Keane on Friday and not him. Benitez never trusted Keane as an out and out striker. He preferred to play him deep, as a foil first to Torres, then to Dirk Kuyt and even Benayoun when Torres was out injured. Keane's role at Liverpool was too deep and too sporadic to allow him to become a new Anfield idol in that number seven, mostly I suspect because Benitez never wanted him in the first place. The experience will have been a sobering one for the Irish captain. He is untouchable as his country's most effective front player, but that status carried little weight inside the Liverpool dressingroom. There is time for Keane to bounce back from this disappointment. He is still only 28 and has many great years ahead of him, hopefully, for Ireland and for Spurs. Someday, though, when it is all over Keane will look back on the last six months as a waste of his time and his talent. They say you should never meet your idols - and meeting Liam Brady is the personal proof of that claim - and apparently you should never sign for them either if your name is Robbie Keane. Robbie will be back - he's too good a player not to bounce back - but maybe he's just not the great player Liverpool wanted to fill that famous Number Seven shirt. That doubt may haunt him to the grave no matter how much money he has made in all this wheeling and dealing between the club he wanted to play for, and the club that never really wanted him to leave. All's well that ends well? Only time will tell.

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