âIt was the most attractive challenge in front of me, but I didn’t accept it.
In November 2005, Roy Keane’s career at Manchester United came to an abrupt end. He was then offered the opportunity to join Real Madrid but did not take it.
After 12 and a half years, 480 games, 51 goals, seven league titles, four FA Cups, the Champions League and an unprecedented treble, Keane left Old Trafford in acrimonious circumstances.
All these years later, and the wounds still don’t seem to heal.
Keane and Ferguson.
Alex Ferguson and Keane, the engines of United’s most successful years, fell out and Ferguson dismissed the most important player he has ever had.
The Irishman was 34 at the time, suffering from a foot injury after a big tackle from Luis Garcia of Liverpool and was trying to deal with a hip injury that would end his career the following summer.
Yet he was still inundated with offers, such was his status within the sport.
Clubs are lining up to sign Keane.
Twitter wasn’t there, but if you had Ceefax activated in November and December 2005 you would have seen daily transfer rumors linking the Corkman to trips to clubs across Europe.
Bayern Munich and Juventus, two teams who had tried to sign Keane a few years before when it appeared he would not sign a new contract with United, were reportedly interested. Inter Milan and AC Milan too.
Almost every Premier League side, with the obvious exception of Liverpool and Arsenal, would have liked to sign Roy.
Keane joins Celtic.
Keane reduced the offers. He met David Moyes, then Everton manager, and Bolton boss Sam Allardyce, but ended up signing for Celtic. Gordan Strachan caught Keane off guard, saying that while he would like him to join the Scottish squad, he doesn’t really need him. “So I was like, ‘Fuck you, I’m signing,'” Keane said of negotiations with the Celtic manager.
He suffered a significant pay cut, joined them in January 2006 and played 13 games, scoring once. The former Irish captain supported Celtic and was present in the 2003 UEFA Cup final loss to Porto in Sevilla. However, he will later admit that he doesn’t think about his time at Celtic with much affection, revealing that he has suffered significant pain with the lingering hip injury and has lost some love for the game. after the end of it at United.
Looking back, he turned down the most interesting and exciting offer on the table – a decision by real Madrid.
Keane refuses Real Madrid.
Real, at that time, was not a vintage side. The first Galactico era was drawing to a close, running out of steam as celebrity status rose to prominence on building a cohesive and winning team.
Madrid were knocked out of the Champions League by Arsenal that season. Their bitter rivals Barcelona won the European Cup and La Liga, finishing 12 points ahead of Los Blancos. Zinedine Zidane then left Real, retiring after the World Cup with one year left on his contract.
Yet they still had some incredibly talented footballers when Keane offered to join them in the winter of 2005 – Zidane, Raul, Ronaldo, Iker Casillas, Sergio Ramos and Roberto Carlos. Keane’s former Man United teammate David Beckham was also on the squad, as were Jonathan Woodgate and Danish midfielder Thomas Gravenson. It was a special time at the Bernabeu.
âRoy, we’ll be happy to have you.
But, despite their troubles, it was still Real Madrid, the most glamorous football club in the world. However, this was not the case. Keane spoke to the club and his lawyer traveled to Spain to negotiate a contract for him. But he rejected the offer for what he calls “negative” reasons
“Real Madrid offered me a one-and-a-half-year contract,” Roy told in his second autobiography.
“Michael (Kennedy) had been to Madrid and he had negotiated a deal with Real. They also spoke to me. ButragueÃ±o called me. Emilio ButragueÃ±o – what a player he was. Michael had warned me that ButragueÃ±o would be calling, so I took my cell phone everywhere with me.
“And – how lucky – he called me while I was sitting on the toilet. He said, âLook, Roy, we’ll be glad to have you. The club’s board of directors had only to sanction the agreement; that was standard procedure.
âI was going, ‘okay,’ hesitating. Michael was like, ‘What are you doing, Roy?’ “
“I took a negative approach.”
Keane said Los Blancos just needed to ‘validate’ the deal. However, he “lacked patience” and instead opted for Celtic. Looking back, he concedes that he didn’t appreciate the offer as much as he should have.
âIt was the most attractive challenge in front of me, but I didn’t take it,â he said.
âLooking back, I should have said to myself, ‘Go on. Go to Spain, live there for a year and a half, learn another language, learn the culture. You might end up liking it. You might even stay there. .
âI took a negative approach, I think, instead of saying, ‘This is amazing, how lucky for me’. It could have been great for my kids. The weather and the training might have given me a second life, two more years of playing; I may have learned new techniques for my stretching. But instead – as usual – I watched what could go wrong. “Hindsight” is a damn word. At the time, it seemed like the right decision.
âIt was fear that decided me.
âI didn’t want to move to Spain. As much as anything else, it was fear that decided me – fear of the unknown. And I made an apology in front of me – the family, the language, the education of the children. I could imagine going to Madrid and to the locker room. I would do it again, and I wasn’t in the mood to do that. I had had a difficult career. Physically, I was struggling.
âIt’s not good to play for a club; or, it’s not just about playing for them. It’s about having an effect on the club, having a big influence. It was one of my concerns when I left United. I was thirty-four, an experienced player. Real Madrid might have just wanted someone to do a job, sit in the middle of the park for a few games. But I wanted to come in and have an effect on a team.
“I could affect the games with my presence.”
Keane writes that while he felt he could still make an impact on the games, his body had started to physically decline.
âI could affect the games with my presence, by breaking the game, by imposing myself, even in the tunnel, before entering the field. But I was thirty-four and played a tough, physical game. I had seen older players go to new clubs and it hadn’t worked.
Ironically, Madrid desperately needed someone with Keane’s qualities at the time, someone to control the debates in the center of midfield and break the game, even though it was the winter of their career. . It was a Ferrari without an engine.
The Irishman also had the chance to end his career alongside all-time greats. While La Liga’s slower and less physical pace, combined with Madrid’s lifestyle and climate, may have even helped extend his career and deal with the hip injury.
“The morning I left United I kinda lost the love of the game.”
Still, Keane says that in the end it doesn’t matter which club he signed for. He lost the âbuzzâ of playing football when he left Old Trafford.
âForget Madrid, Everton, Celtic, Barcelona, ââInter Milan and the reasons why I should or shouldn’t have gone to one of them. The point is, the morning I left United, I lost my love of the game a bit.
“I could have had all the clubs in the world calling me, but it wouldn’t have given me that buzz, that satisfaction, that ‘Let’s go’.”
Originally published April 3, 2020.
Find out more about: Manchester United, Real Madrid, Roy Keane