Football: Keane's deal has saved United a monster hunt

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The Independent Online
MEN AND women who already earn hundreds of thousands of pounds a year working in the City will be receiving bonuses totalling around pounds 1 billion next week. That is the unfathomable sum dished out to the brokers and fund managers whose end-of-year pay packages can be as much as 30 times their annual salaries.

While you're calculating what that would mean to you, let me tell you that one female Internet acquisition specialist in New York will expect $29m (pounds 18.4m) in bonuses this month - all for predicting which are the best websites to invest in. Making money for money's sake has always bewildered me, which is possibly why I find it very easy to comprehend why Roy Keane should be paid pounds 50,000 a week.

Hollywood actors can expect to earn pounds 10m for a film; recording artists earn millions on record deals. They are people who are likely to have careers considerably longer than Keane. The only surprising thing about his salary is that it took Manchester United so long to hammer out a deal.

In just two weeks Keane would have been free to talk to other clubs and United would have been frantically scanning Europe for a Keane-like player willing to accept pounds 30,000 a week - about as likely as a successful search for the Loch Ness monster.

When Valencia played Manchester United last week, a player named Gaizka Mendieta was pretty good in midfield for the Spaniards. Valencia wouldn't sell him for less than pounds 20m and he would require a salary in the region of pounds 45,000 a week. Mendieta is a talented player but he couldn't fill Keane's boots. Maybe Edgar Davids, of Juventus, could give it a go, but he'd want Keane's salary and then some, and even then there's no guarantee he'd fit in with the team.

My boss is always telling me that everyone is replaceable, but Peter Schmiechel has shown that's not strictly true. Two goalkeepers were brought in to fill the vacancy between the sticks at United and a third, Raimond van der Gouw, still gets a game (and a great game it was against Valencia). So has Schmeichel really been replaced yet? I think not.

It's ironic that Keane became the highest-paid British player in the same week that his club's name did not appear in the third round of the FA Cup. In the traditionally frantic Christmas period Manchester United will have played only one game in 18 days by the time they meet Bradford City on Boxing Day. It seemed madness at the time but now the method is emerging.

I do not need to eulogise about Keane, who is a phenomenal player and a consummate professional and who, I am reliably informed, hasn't had a drop of alcohol since last June. If I was negotiating a contract worth pounds 8,000 a day it would be vintage champagne for breakfast in my house. But footballers are athletes as well as entertainers. The faceless recipients of million-pound bonuses in the City are neither and I don't begrudge them their money. But I know which way I'd rather earn my salary.

In the spirit of goodwill, here's my top tip for the festive season: Think hard before you buy your football club's calendar. It could become a constant source of frustration. Every time you want to check a dental appointment, your mother's birthday or use the bathroom, you could be reminded of the player who deserted you. Karlheinz Riedle graces the back of the toilet door in my friend Simon's flat. As Simon does not support Fulham this is very annoying for him, possibly more so because this time last year Sandra Bullock was smiling away every time he used the loo. Riedle is not the sole culprit; if one flicks back a few pages in the calendar, Steve McManaman is happily posing in a Liverpool shirt and then there's David James, looking all mean and moody in July. Unhappily for Simon the aforementioned men are all now plying their trades for other clubs.

I'm sure the Liverpool calendar is not the only factually incorrect one in the country at this time of the year, but there is a very simple answer. Just leave the players' bodies headless but include a pack of stickers showing the faces of players the manager would like to buy and those he is definitely keeping. One can add the stickers on at the appropriate time. Alternatively you could just buy Jennifer Lopez's calendar this year and have an easy life.

Gabby Yorath is an ITV sports presenter

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