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'Him and Benitez just never clicked': Carragher looks back on Robbie Keane's brief Liverpool stint

Jamie Carragher couldn’t see the logic in signing Robbie Keane in 2008, and he has sympathy for how the striker’s dream move unraveled.

“I’LL BE HONEST with you, I didn’t understand why we bought Robbie Keane in the first place,” says Jamie Carragher, before quickly offering a qualifier and an explanation for his bafflement in the summer of 2008.

Soccer - Barclays Premier League - Wigan Athletic v Liverpool - JJB Stadium File photo: Keane on the Liverpool bench in January 2009, days before his return to Tottenham. Source: EMPICS Sport

Seeing Ireland’s best run out for the best teams in England was once commonplace, but the tricolours next to names on Premier League squad lists has been dwindling steadily over the years.

When Ireland’s record goalscorer made the jump from Tottenham to Liverpool for £19 million a little over a decade ago, the hope was that he would become a recognised star in the Champions League on top of his marked-man status at international level. 

Instead, however, the Dubliner found himself as a square peg thrust upon a round hole. Keane himself has described how then Liverpool boss Rafa Benitez seemed intent on converting him into a left winger – as the Spaniard apparently struggled to figure out how to best combine Steven Gerrard, Fernando Torres, Keane, Dirk Kuyt and Yossi Benayoun.

“What I mean is,” Carragher continues, “Robbie Keane was a top player for Tottenham. But the season before Steven Gerrard was playing up alongside Torres as the number 10.

“We had done it for the second half of the season and I think Stevie set up 20 goals.

We had Torres up front. So when we signed Robbie Keane I was like, ‘Why would you break that up?’ People say you can move Stevie back, but he was playing that well there.

“It was a surprise to be honest when he came in. And Robbie Keane’s problem was that Torres was injured a lot. So he ended up playing centre forward and Stevie was behind him. And probably (ideally) you’re thinking of Robbie just floating around Torres.”

Even aside from positioning, however, Carragher feels the relationship was never quite harmonious enough to succeed and the former defender feels it was best for both parties when Keane returned to Spurs at the end of the January transfer window at a £7 million reduction.

“Him and Benitez just never clicked, straight away.

“Rafa… as a defender, Rafa Benitez is one of the best managers you can have. As an attacker, you’re probably going ‘just let me play’. Everything’s so structured and organised.

Soccer - UEFA Champions League - Group D - Liverpool v PSV Eindhoven - Anfield Keane celebrates against PSV Eindhoven. Source: PA Archive/PA Images

“(Craig) Bellamy was the same. A lot of the English lads found it difficult; (Peter) Crouchie, Jermaine Pennant… with Rafa and the way he went about things, a lot of those lads just want to go play and be free. So there was always going to be tension there for Robbie and Rafa.

“It was probably best for everyone that there was a parting of the ways. But to be fair, you can’t really judge someone on (six months).

233 Jamie Carragher launching ‘Sports Extra’ on Sky. The new sports pack which includes BT Sport and Premier Sports will be available to new & existing Sky Sports customers from August 1 for just €10 extra a month. Source: David Fitzgerald/SPORTSFILE

“He wasn’t given a fair enough crack of the whip. I think maybe Rafa thought he might as well get the money for this now rather than prolong it any longer.

“I think under a different manager, it would have worked.”

Carragher added: “I just think maybe it was the wrong time, wrong manager. But I say ‘wrong manager’. Rafa Benitez might say ‘wrong player’.” 

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About the author:

Sean Farrell

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