ISL 2017: Why Robbie Keane snubbed the Premier League for a move to India
The lure of money was there, but other factors also proved pivotal.
Robbie Keane has caused quite a stir in India with his latest move to Indian Super League champions ATK, but in the process, the Irish legend spurned some very presentable chances, unlike what he does on the pitch.
Those chances were to play in the UK after a five-year stay in the United States which started when he moved from Premier League giants Tottenham Hotspur in 2011. The well-travelled Keane had been without a club ever since he left MLS outfit Los Angeles Galaxy last year but is now set for a final flourish in a continent he has never played before.
It is a testament to Keane's dogged determination that has seen him knock goals in left, right and centre for every team he has played, and ATK will be no different. Having netted over 300 goals for both club and country, Keane had interested various English clubs, including newly-promoted Premier League outfit Brighton and Hove Albion during his time cooling heels after the LA Galaxy exit, but his decision to choose ATK over other options much closer to home clearly signals that the ISL is beginning to assert its influence on the elite international market.
The man from Dublin will reportedly earn more than £50,000 per week for his four-month stay in India which trumps most offers he would've received had he decided to move to an English club.
Birmingham City, a Championship club currently managed by Harry Redknapp, were on the verge of roping in Keane before the 37-year-old decided to move east, suggesting that the attraction of a big final payday proved to be the deciding factor. Other English clubs like Leeds United and Wolverhampton Wanderers also showed an interest but ATK's offer was the one he couldn't refuse, also partly because his former Spurs teammate Teddy Sheringham is at the helm of the Kolkata outfit.
On average, a footballer in a mid to lower tier Championship club earns £10,000 per week, while bigger Championship clubs with promotion aspirations - like Brighton - go higher than that figure although not for someone like Keane who, at 37, is in the twilight of his career. Hence, it is clear that finances played a key role in ATK's acquisition of Republic of Ireland's all-time record goalscorer.
Furthermore, the desire to test himself in leagues less explored has also interested Keane over the years. The former Republic of Ireland international could be said to have made the biggest impact of any Premier League import in MLS by far. Keane's 83 goals in the MLS ranks him among the top goalscorers in the league's history, while his 0.69 goals-per-game ratio is only behind Bradley Wright-Phillips among those who have scored 80 or more goals in MLS.
That aside, the ace poacher, who started out at Wolverhampton Wanderers, has also experienced life in Italy and Scotland, the former when he moved to Inter Milan as a 20-year-old fresh face and the latter as a battle-hardened 30-year-old when he moved north to Celtic on loan from Spurs.
Having experienced different footballing cultures in a career that has spanned 20 years at the very top, the challenge isn't over for Keane. Many have already written him off as a waste of money - ISL clubs, on average, spend a third of Keane's wages on Indian players cumulatively - hence that should give him extra motivation to do well what he does best, scoring goals.
Upon ATK's announcement of Keane, the striker said: "At this stage of my career, the offer to experience a new league and culture in Asia appealed to me," clearly indicating his desire to explore the booming ISL.
Whether or not he maintains his lofty goalscoring standards in India remains to be seen, but Keane's move to India at a time when he was still coveted by numerous English clubs, including one in the Premier League, is the biggest proof of the ISL's growing stature in world football.