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Keane defies critics with LA move

As Robbie Keane fulfilled the latest of his never ending list of 'dream moves' by joining LA Galaxy, his army of Irish cynics unleashed a predictably vitriolic tirade in the direction of their nation's all-time record goal scorer.

• Between the Lines on Keane

It matters not that Keane is 30 goals ahead of his nearest rival in the Republic of Ireland scoring charts as there has long been a deep rooted animosity towards this Dubliner in his homeland. The perception is that he is a mercenary milking all he can from the game with the modest talent he was blessed with a curious epitaph for one who would be hailed as a national treasure in most nations.

The Irish culture demanding that those who hail from outside the capital of Dublin are dismissive of those from the big city has long worked against Keane's popularity rating on a national level, while a healthy clutch of Dubliners have condemned him for being a flashy upstart who represents all that is unpleasant about the big-money modern game.

They scoff at the notion that this kid from Tallaght, a less than affluent outskirt of Dublin, can drive around in flashy sports cars and parade a beautiful wife around showbiz parties, yet misguided jealously has never been an admirable quality in any human being.

Against this unfortunate backdrop, Keane must be pleased to find himself heading to a country that toasts high achievers and especially to a city in which envying the rich and famous comes from aspiration rather than ugly bitterness.

One can only hope that Keane headed to America without sneaking a peak at his familiar line-up of haters in the Irish press this week, with the opinions on his move to the MLS coming with an apparently inevitable sprinkling of nastiness.

In an article entitled 'The Ego Has Landed', Irish Independent writer Daniel McDonnell gave his slant on one of the more unexpected transfers of this summer, with his dismissal of America's MLS as damning as his judgement on Keane's move to sign for a ninth club.

"The inescapable conclusion is that Keane's ego has taken the easy option," wrote McDonnell. "The alternative to a stiff challenge in a physical, unforgiving environment, is a league where he is still young enough to be a rising star.

"Most footballers have an ego. It's just that Keane's is more apparent. The suspicion is that, in addition to the money and lifestyle, regaining the feeling of being top dog appealed more than the grind of a season in the second tier of English football.

"He could become a darling to the Galaxy faithful, but he is miles away from the scrutiny that determines a top-level footballer. Fun, sun and easy money. That's the American dream alright."

The Evening Herald newspaper in Dublin ran an equally unflattering assessment of Keane's transatlantic adventure, with their view that his sporting flame died as his original 'dream' of making a success of his move to Liverpool back in 2008 was blown out.

"Ambition died in Robbie Keane the moment he realised that Rafa Benitez was using him as a chess piece and not a striker," is their view. "Every move he has made since has been about self-interest and self-defence.

"Keane is looking after himself and his family with this move to Los Angeles. Glory is over-rated and they package it better in America anyway. There's something very sad about this transfer and, while sympathy for Keane seems inappropriate when he has just increased his worth, it is never easy to watch pragmatism overtake boyhood dreams."

Another of Keane's long-time abusers has been Sunday World writer Roy Curtis, who delights in lambasting the striker for his wayward finishing and his tendency to take a tumble when challenged in the box. A move to the glitz and glamour of LA played perfectly into Curtis' hands, as he revels in the chance to portray Keane as a footballer who puts the pursuit of a fast buck ahead of the quest to win trophies.

"When word filtered through that Keane might be bound for David Beckham's LA Galaxy, the temptation was towards unkindness, to suggest that Tinseltown was the inevitable destination for the lead actor in Ireland's greatest sporting farce," wrote the always colourful Curtis.

"If he doesn't get his dive right the first time, the director can always scream 'cut' and 'take two'! And where better than Los Angeles to apply some Botox to a career that has long been sagging, that now looks wrinkled beyond repair? Let's move beyond the spin: Keane's club career has been a story of lucrative failure.

"Shane Long and Kevin Doyle, Jonathan Walters and Simon Cox - heaven help us, even Leon Best - will play in the Premier League this season. Meanwhile, Robbie will be eight thousand miles away in the land of the free and the home of the insignificant, coining it as he hangs out with the Beckhams, Kobe Bryant and the Lakers. Hollywood being Hollywood, they might make a movie out of it: They could call it Tosh and Becks."

They are all harsh words for a striker who makes it into the top ten all-time scorers list in the England's Premier League, with his heroics for Ireland over an extended period also worthy of some commendations.

Despite his notable achievements, finding positive sentiments towards Keane's latest lucrative transfer in the Irish media over recent days has been a challenge, with Irish Times scribe Carl O'Malley one of the few who decided to present a silver lining.

"Keane's form for Ireland hardly suffered while he wasn't playing much with Spurs or West Ham, so a confidence boost and regular football can't be a bad thing," was his view. "Besides, is the MLS really that much poorer in quality than the SPL where he scored goals for fun and seemed to renew his love for the game after a miserable spell at Liverpool?

"Ireland boss Giovanni Trapattoni has called Caleb Folan up to the international squad since he has been at Colorado Rapids, so it's unlikely he'll change that attitude for his free-scoring captain. In fact, it is inconceivable that this move has come about without the Italian's blessing."

Having worked in the Irish media for 15 years myself, I have never ceased to be amazed by the relentless stream of hatred Keane has taken on board, yet the truth must be that those who have made a living out of lambasting and belittling a striker who will be Ireland's all-time record goal scorer for several decade will miss him when he is no long sporting that green No. 10 shirt he has made his own.

Keane once told me that family members have phoned him crying at the unpleasant sentiments that have been shoved in his direction by Irish media detractors down the years, with the justification for the treatment he has received hard to fathom for a striker whose off-field indiscretions have been few and far between down the years.

However, this move to Los Angeles will give those who have long suspected Keane's motivation is driven by the desire to boost bank balance rather than leave a sporting legacy in his wake all the justification they require to claim such sentiments were well placed after all.

Robbie, you suspect, long gave up losing sleep over what his critics think of him.


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