Keane turns up intensity in fight to save Anfield career

Shunned striker shows off skills in training in renewed bid to stay at Liverpool
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The Independent Football

Robbie Keane appears determined to salvage a Liverpool career which looks to be in severe jeopardy following his exclusion from the squad for last Sunday's FA Cup Merseyside derby squad.

Keane was said to have impressed manager Rafael Benitez with the intensity of his training at the club's Melwood training ground yesterday morning. His session was "fantastic," according to the Liverpool manager. The omens do not appear favourable for a player who, having not appeared in Liverpool's third-round visit to Preston either, is still not Cup-tied. But the 28-year-old's absence from Anfield for Liverpool's 1-1 draw with Everton is less significant than it seemed. Any player not in the squad for the match was given Sunday off and that, rather than a personal protest, was why he did not appear. Keane would also have known that he would have become an unwelcome centre of attention had he watched the match from the stand.

But Keane's omission from Benitez's squad – the unproven David Ngog was preferred – was a stunning blow. It was also a reflection of the exacting demands the Spaniard places on those whom he deploys in the striker's role. Anfield has become a graveyard of strikers in Benitez's four and a half years at Liverpool, with Michael Owen, El Hadji Diouf, Djibril Cissé, Fernando Morientes, Craig Bellamy and Peter Crouch all sold by the Spaniard in the end. Many of his strikers at Valencia experienced the same, with Fernando Torres a rare, if extraordinary, exception to the rule.

Though Harry Redknapp said yesterday that he had "a lot of time" for Keane, there appears to be no realistic prospect of the Irishman taking a road back to Tottenham even though Spurs could conceivably write off the £10.8m outstanding on the initial £20.3m deal to smooth the way. Redknapp has not mentioned Keane to his chairman, Daniel Levy.

Benitez's reasons for sticking with Keane include his need for striking reinforcements, with Torres troubled with hamstrings all season, as well as his personal reputation in the transfer market which is already on the line with none of his summer buys having flourished and Andrea Dossena having also laboured badly. Benitez might characterise Keane as the summer signing he coveted far less than Aston Villa's Gareth Barry – whom he was denied – yet it was he who persuaded the club's American owners after Crouch's departure that a striking replacement was a top priority and, with the club aware that Spurs would not part company for less than £20m, that a substantial outlay would be necessary. Keane's age was discussed at the time, but Tom Hicks and George Gillett were persuaded by their manager's argument that he was injury free and that you pay a premium for strikers.

It is Hicks, of the club's two proprietors, who is privately most positive about Keane and the money laid out for him, though that may have much to do with a desire to position himself as the manager's ally. But neither American believes Benitez should, as he wishes, decide how much to pay for players within the budget allocated. Sunday's visit of Chelsea appears to present an opportunity for discussion on that subject, with Hicks expected on Merseyside for the first time since last April's Champions League quarter-final tie, as well as Gillett.

Hicks' announcement that he would attend the game had given rise to some belief within Anfield that he was planning some kind of announcement about the club's finances, presumably related to discussions which Liverpool have been having with the Kuwaiti billionaire Nasser Al-Kharafi. The fact that the Kharafi Group is building the 60,000-seat Jaber Al-Ahmad International Stadium in Kuwait demonstrates why Liverpool executives had been sent to meet his associates. But Hicks has also dispatched key personnel from the United States to Kuwait and elsewhere in the region to find investors able to provide the capital that will help him reduce the club's debt and build a new stadium.

There is a prospect within weeks of new partners being unveiled in Kop Football (Holdings) – the company that Hicks and Gillett used as the vehicle to buy Liverpool in 2007 – a senior source, unconnected with the various PR agencies Hicks has employed, has now told the Associated Press.

Daniel Agger has echoed his manager's criticism of Liverpool's failure to offer him a new deal. There is much ground to cover, with Agger's salary demands exceeding what Liverpool want to pay and his concern about his lack of first-team starts something Liverpool know they must address. A meeting between Benitez, the club's chief executive, Rick Parry, the player and his agent, Per Steffensen, has been delayed by Benitez's recent illness.

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