Roy Keane agreed an 18-month contract at Celtic yesterday which is understood to be worth around half of the £90,000-a-week salary the former Manchester United captain commanded at Old Trafford. The decision came after Real Madrid withdrew their interest on Tuesday night, leaving the Parkhead club, under the guidance of major shareholder Dermot Desmond, to put together a salary package for the 34-year-old.
Among the conditions that Keane's lawyer Michael Kennedy has secured is thought to be a weekly wage of £45,000 that exceeds the club's top earner John Hartson's £30,000 a week but was less than the player could have earned by taking up one of the many offers open to him in the Premiership. Keane is also likely to keep his family at their home in Cheshire and commute to Scotland.
Despite late representations from the Bolton Wanderers manager, Sam Allardyce, and David Moyes at Everton, it was Keane's desire not to play against United that has been crucial in his decision-making over the past three weeks. As a sign of goodwill from Celtic he is understood to have been offered the 18-month deal, which would keep him at the club right up to his 36th birthday in August 2007.
The multimillionaire Irishman Desmond has been critical of Celtic supporters who have called upon him to put more money into the club, but he spotted the potentially beneficial effect of signing Keane from an early stage. The former Manchester United shareholder is understood to have helped to finance the deal and is also due to underwrite a share issue scheme at the club in the new year.
A close friend of John Magnier and J P McManus, the two investors who fell out with the United manager, Sir Alex Ferguson, over the ownership of the racehorse Rock Of Gibraltar, Desmond has said that Celtic's future depends on them finding a way to play in the English Premiership. With Keane in the team, Celtic can expect a greater profile south of the border.
Although Celtic are continually referred to as Keane's boyhood team, they were in fact the team that many of his extended family in his native Cork supported. With typical independence Keane supported Tottenham Hotspur, and admired Glenn Hoddle in particular when he was growing up. There was no doubt that he would have looked very closely at Real Madrid had club president Florentino Perez not had a late change of heart about the way in which the signing would be received by the club's supporters.
David Beckham, as he did at the end of last month, said that Keane would make a useful addition to Real despite his former team-mate's famous attack on the "mansions, fast cars and Rolexes" culture at Old Trafford in the summer of 2002 a thinly veiled criticism of the England captain. Beckham was understood to be furious at the comments at the time but, at an official Real Madrid press conference yesterday, he took great care to praise Keane without ever putting any explicit pressure on the club to sign him.
"If we have a chance to sign Roy Keane, then I'd say yes," Beckham said. "We've got great leaders here already but I have never played with a better leader. Roy Keane would help in any team. He is an incredible player, this is a great club and everybody would want to come here."