The Tottenham Hotspur chairman, Daniel Levy, did not conceal his anger last night after conceding the signature of Robbie Keane to Liverpool for what he described as £19m "compensation" – rising by a possible £1.3m, based on appearances.
Levy accepted that attempting to keep Keane from Liverpool – his childhood team, with their lure of new European horizons – was futile and has agreed not to pursue his official complaint to the Premier League regarding the Liverpool manager Rafael Benitez's public comments on the player's talents, after Liverpool acknowledged that these had been inappropriate and agreed to make a donation to the club's main charity, the Tottenham Hotspur Foundation.
But he clearly believes that contractual obligations – Keane was tied to Spurs until 2010 – and private conversations between clubs about a player's availability stand for nothing. "I was incredibly disappointed when I first heard, not only that Liverpool had been working behind the scenes to bring Robbie to Anfield, but that Robbie himself wanted to go and he submitted a transfer request to this effect," Levy said. "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 both agree to trade – this is very much an enforced sale."
Levy, who finds himself involved in a desperate search for alternative firepower during which he refuses to countenance realistic discussions about Manchester United's second successive summer approach for Dimitar Berbatov, was infuriated by Benitez's public declaration of interest in Keane three weeks ago, which he considers a "disgraceful" breach of Premier League rules of conduct.
Keane last night attempted, in a description of Levy's conduct, to sweeten the pill. "I would specifically like to thank Daniel Levy for understanding, that, as a fan, joining Liverpool is a lifelong dream of mine and one I couldn't let pass me by," he said. "I hope one day the Spurs fans, who have been brilliant to me, can understand this too." His six years at Spurs were "the most enjoyable of my career to date."
Public censure from Spurs – and after his similar pursuit of Aston Villa's Gareth Barry, a reputation as something of a cuckoo among Premier League managers – is minor collateral damage for Benitez who, in the 28-year-old Keane, has finally landed a player to make good his paucity of goalscoring sources.
There was no more graphic illustration of that shortcoming last season than Andrei Voronin's finishing position alongside Peter Crouch as joint-third top scorer. Crouch's departure to Portsmouth for £11m created an even more urgent needr for someone other than Fernando Torres and Steven Gerrard to deliver goals for Liverpool and they have laid out a sum second only in the club's history to the £26.5m for Torres on a player who is expected to earn £80,000 a week. Spurs had stalled on Keane's departure while they began the search for a replacement for a player who has been their lead scorer and netted at least 15 times in three of the last four seasons, before bowing to the inevitable.
Keane, who signed after a medical at Melwood yesterday and has all but matched Berbatov, goal for goal, in the past two years, will certainly feel at home around Anfield. He, Gerrard and Jamie Carragher share the same agent in Struan Marshall. Keane recently attended the launch of Carragher's "Carra's Bar" in Liverpool and, to judge by his conversation with Phil Thompson that night, could barely contain his excitement at signing for the club he supported as a child but rejected in favour of Wolves 14 years ago, because he wanted first-team football. A friend of Gerrard Keane may be, but the Liverpool captain might also be mulling over how close they will be positionally, now that Keane has signed in time to join the Liverpool squad for a friendly at Villarreal tomorrow night.
Keane does not play as high up as Berbatov or Torres and operates better as an offensive central midfielder than a winger, so his arrival raises the prospect of Gerrard once again being cast out to the right flank if Benitez deploys them both in a 4-2-3-1 formation – a role which does not best please him.
Benitez, whose pursuit of Barry would appear to be over, will cross that bridge when he reaches it. For now, he can feel satisfied that he has secured the services of a player whose transfer from Coventry to Marcello Lippi's Internazionale for £13m in 2000 revealed his stature.
l Spurs beat Norwich City 5-1 in a friendly last night, with Darren Bent, often behind Keane and Berbatov in the pecking order last season, scoring four.
Anfield on the move Liverpool's transfer dealings this summer
Robbie Keane (striker): £18m from Tottenham
David Ngog: (striker): £1.5m from Paris St-Germain
Emmanuel Mendy (full-back): Free transfer from Murcia Deportivo
Diego Cavalieri (goalkeeper): Undisclosed from PalmeirasAndrea Dossena (full-back): Undisclosed from Udinese
Philipp Degen (full-back): Free transfer from Dortmund
Peter Crouch: £11m to Portsmouth
Scott Carson: £3.25m to West Bromwich
John Arne Riise: £3.9m to Roma
Danny Guthrie: Undisclosed to Newcastle
Harry Kewell: Free transfer to Galatasaray
Anthony Le Tellec: Undisclosed to Le Mans
Gareth Barry (midfielder): Aston Villa.