GALAXY: Keane's not Hollywood, or is he?
August, 19, 2011
By Scott French | ESPNLosAngeles.com
Kevork Djansezian/Getty ImagesRobbie Keane didn't mince words in his introduction to L.A. on Friday.
CARSON -- Why might Robbie Keane favor a couple of years in L.A. over the skill, strength, intensity and atmosphere of proper football in England? Aside from weather?
He says it's about new challenges, new opportunities, a desire to do something that's perhaps a little out of the ordinary, certainly to Major League Soccer's skeptics on the British Isles.
“You always get a good feeling about something,” Keane said during his introductory news conference Friday afternoon. “Certainly, I have a good feeling about this. I've played in the Premiership for a long, long time, kind of did what I had to do there, scored a lot of goals. It's time for a new challenge, and this opportunity came up. It's an opportunity you can't take too lightly.
“As soon as the opportunity came, I knew straight away speaking to the people and having the chance to have a friendly chat [with David Beckham] that we had when he was training with Spurs, so I know how much he spoke about MLS and the people here, so for me it was an easy decision.”
Could there be more to it than that? Keane's wife, Claudine, a lingerie model who competed in the Miss Ireland pageant, has made no secret of her desire to relocate in L.A. It could help her career, and it's already aided her visibility.
The Keanes have drawn comparisons at home to “Posh and Becks” -- Beckham and his wife, Victoria, the former Posh Spice -- but they were virtual unknowns on this side of the Atlantic. TMZ, which offers ample coverage of the Beckhams, has jumped on the Claudine Keane bandwagon: She's routing Victoria Beckham, with 57 percent of more than 113,000 votes at last count, in a “Who'd You Rather” poll on the celebrity website.
English tabloid Daily Mail covered the Keanes' arrival Thursday at LAX almost purely from a glamor perspective.
So how might being in L.A. benefit the Keanes?
“I'm here to play football,” Keane said. “For me, first and foremost, that's the most important thing. Everything else is irrelevent to me. It's about playing football, and it always has been.”
NOT GOD'S HAND: The best line of the afternoon went to M. Finbar Hill, the Irish consul general, who played a role in speeding up Keane's visa process.
He was praising Keane's finishing skill and noted that the striker had scored a record 51 goals for Ireland's national team, a figure “far, far more than Diego Maradona scored with Argentina ... and none were scored by his hand.”
We'll have to get Keane's thoughts on New York's Thierry Henry, whose hand-ball assist knocked the Irish out of 2010 World Cup contention.
By the way, nobody's comparing Keane to Maradona, but Hill is correct. The Argentine legend netted 34 goals in 91 international appearances.
NO RECRUIT: Beckham was asked if he, while training last winter at Tottenham, lobbied Keane to come to the Galaxy.
“No,” he promptly replied. “That would have been illegal.”
Keane was, of course, under contract.
So, what did Beckham tell Keane? Did he share his thoughts on Southern California, the best places to live -- Beverly Hills, naturally -- and so forth. Uh, no.
“We just speak about football,” Keane said. “That's the only thing we speak about.”
Said Beckham: “Of course, many players ask me about the league, about our club, about our players, about our franchise, and I always speak the truth. It's great to play here, it's a great league, it's a league that's growing, and what I said to Robbie: It's a great place to play.”
'EVERYONE DISLIKES US': Tim Leiweke, president of Galaxy owner AEG, was asked about criticism that the Galaxy focuses too much on big-name Designated Players.
“Last time I looked, these guys are in first place,” he said. “So we don't mind having a target on our back. One of thing I love about all three of those guys (Keane, Beckham and Landon Donovan): They understand the pressure that's on us, and they understand everyone dislikes us. And I like that. My message to the rest of the league is if you don't like it, go get your own.”
Leiweke told ESPN Los Angeles that accusations that “there were favors asked” and “deadlines missed” as the Galaxy battled to bring in Keane before MLS's transfer window closed last weekend were hooey.
“We never had to ask for anything out of the league, except Todd Durbin [MLS's executive vice president of competition and player relations] didn't get any sleep for two nights,” Leiweke said. “With the exception of that, we met all the deadlines. We never had a problem with the deadlines. That was never the issue.
“The visa, that was the one. You looked at that, that could have been two weeks. But we got very lucky with that, thanks to great cooperation from the [Irish] consulate general and the U.S. ambassador [Pittsburgh Steelers chairman emeritus Dan Rooney] and his staff in Dublin. They got it.
“It's not lost on us that the guy who is ambassador to Ireland is a football owner.”
WORTH NOTING: Reports out of Australia have the Galaxy negotiating for a late-November trek Down Under, for a match against Sydney FC, Melbourne Victory or Perth Glory. The Galaxy made postseason trips to Australia and/or New Zealand in 2007, 2008 and 2010. ... Keane was asked why he favored the Galaxy over Leicester City, which plays in England's second-tier Championship and had reported interest in him. He said “as far as I'm aware,” Tottenham never agreed to a transfer fee with Leicester City, a must before the deal would be presented to him. ... The biggest games in Keane's near-future? Ireland is home against Slovakia on Sept. 2 and play Russia in Moscow on Sept. 6. All three have 13 points to sit atop Group B in qualifying for next year's European Championship, and only one of them is guaranteed a berth. One of nine second-place teams also will head straight to Poland/Ukraine, and the other eight will face off in playoffs for four finals berths. Third-place teams are eliminated.