Robbie Keane’s £20.3m transfer from Tottenham to Liverpool should have the alarm bells ringing throughout English football, for this transfer means so much more than simply one players move to another club for an exorbitant fee and exorbitant wages. It is confirmation that the “big four” really are in a league of their own, and can make and break rules, as they wish.
Despite their 11th place finish last season, their form over the previous two seasons and the Carling Cup Final win over Chelsea in March, have earmarked Spurs as the only realistic hope of any team breaking into the “big four” of the premiership. Spurs of course were dramatically robbed of fourth place in 2006 when David Dein, Arsenals chairman, decreed that Spurs should play their final league match with only three fit players. Spurs lost, finished fifth (Arsenal stealing 4th spot) and the chance was lost. Spurs repeated that placing in 2007 and under Juande Ramos Spurs are coming back.
But back to Keane. He was not “a” fans favourite at White Hart Lane, he was THE fans favourite. The jewel in the crown, he was the star player in a team developing a realistic challenge to break into the big league. He’s a player who can change the game with a goal from nothing. Who could forget his famous jig at Wembley after Spurs win over Chelsea? Or his reaction after Spurs 5-1 thrashing of Arsenal in the semi? Keane – who signed a FOUR year contract in March 2006 – hasn’t just left Spurs, he has gone to Liverpool – in premiership terms, the weakest of the “big four” – the very club that would feel most threatened by Spurs emergence as a force. It’s not rocket science to work out that if you keep selling your best players to your rivals then you will never be able to overtake them.
But why did Spurs sell?
Keane’s contract expires in 2010. Surely they didn’t have to sell? And that question and its answer tell the truth about the Champions League. Clearly Spurs felt that they had to sell. Daniel Levy Spurs Chairman…..”I have already made my opinion clear on the nature of this transaction. I don’t regard it as a transfer deal – that is something which happens between two clubs when they both agree to trade – this is very much an enforced sale, for which we have agreed a sum of £19m as compensation plus a potential further £1.3m in additional compensation.”
Additional compensation? Que? Compensation so that Spurs would withdraw their complaint to the Premier League against Liverpool’s illegal poaching of Keane.
Spurs have been forced to confront a harsh reality of modern day football. The reality that the Champions League (thank you, UEFA!) has generated so much money and power for its clubs, that they can pick and choose whichever players they want, when they want and for how much they want. The reality that clubs like Liverpool know they can break every rule they like and they won’t get punished.
It would be great if Spurs ultimately grabbed 4th spot – and the Champions League place this season ahead of Liverpool. But, now, it ain’t gonna happen. It won’t even be close.