Robbie Keane's future appears unlikely to be resolved until the final hours of tomorrow's transfer deadline, with the chances of the Ireland captain leaving Tottenham for West Ham apparently now linked to Harry Redknapp's success in attracting a new signing to White Hart Lane. The Tottenham manager, and the club's hierarchy, are of the belief that there is little point in freeing up £65,000 a week in wages, Keane's current salary, if they cannot put such money to good use by adding to their playing squad. Whoever does come in to take Keane's wage packet, however, need not be a striker. Redknapp is known to want to add a central midfielder to his squad, a wish that may have become a necessity after Tom Huddlestone suffered a set-back in his recovery from injury this week. It's believed that Tottenham will push right to the brink of tomorrow's 11pm transfer deadline to see whether Scott Parker can be included in any potential deal for Keane. West Ham co-owner David Gold, meanwhile, has indicated yesterday that "no stone will be left unturned" in his club's attempts to sign the striker.
That Keane's future won't be decided until deadline day should come as no surprise. He moved from Liverpool to Tottenham in February 2009 hours before the transfer window shut, while his loan move to Celtic this time last year was also concluded with the clock ticking in the background. This January, a hire-purchase agreement has been agreed in principal with West Ham, who'll pay £1m to loan the striker until the end of the season and then commit to handing over a further £5m to Tottenham, and offer Keane a three-and-a-half year deal on £65,000 a week, if they stay in the Premier League. Other events, however, will ultimately decide if the deal gets done.
Despite Keane's penchant for transfers late in the window, the fact that he hasn't left Tottenham sooner remains somewhat perplexing. It is probably unfair, without knowing precisely what has gone on behind the scenes over the past month, to conclude that Keane and his representatives have been slow to engineer a move away from White Hart Lane, but they certainly haven't acted with any haste. Effectively out of contention for a starting place at Tottenham since Rafael van der Vaart's arrival in August, and even out of the club's match day squad entirely on certain occasions since late November, Keane should have ensured he was at a new club by 1 January. Instead, he's gone another month without football, a strange scenario for a player who apparently just wants to play the game.
The delay in Keane's White Hart Lane departure appears to have motivated Ireland manager Giovanni Trapattoni into publicly declaring that his captain is not guaranteed a starting place with the international side unless he's playing regularly with his club. All things being equal, Shane Long and Leon Best should be ahead of Keane in the queue to partner Kevin Doyle in the March qualifier against Macedonia, which is precisely what the 30-year-old deserves on his form of the past two years.
In the season before he left White Hart Lane for Anfield, Keane scored 23 goals in 54 appearances; since his return, he has managed 52 appearances in two years, 18 of those as a substitute, with a return of 15 goals. The player cannot really claim such loss of form is down to unfair treatment. When he returned to Tottenham in February 2009, Redknapp anointed him as team captain and selected him as his first-choice striker for the rest of the season. It was only after a painfully visible dip in form at the outset of the 2009-10 season, a campaign he started as first choice alongside Jermain Defoe, that Redknapp was forced to drop Keane from his plans. He was allowed to go on loan to Celtic last January and has been a peripheral figure since his return.
With a switch to West Ham now effectively outside of Keane's control, he may have to get used to the prospect of staying at Tottenham and fighting for some game time. On that front, he should use Roman Pavlyuchenko for inspiration. Last season, the Russian striker made just six appearances in Tottenham's first 27 games of the season up until their FA Cup fourth-round tie against Leeds. Thereafter, Pavlyuchenko played in 17 of Tottenham's remaining 23 games, scoring nine goals in the process. Redknapp is nothing if not a pragmatist and if Keane can return to something resembling form, and bang in a few goals, his manager will have no trouble picking him on a regular basis.