Tottenham Hotspur last night clinched the £15m deal for Robbie Keane to return to White Hart Lane. Negotiations with Liverpool concluded around 11pm with Spurs confident that their former striker will sign today before the 5pm transfer deadline.
In a remarkable turnaround, the Spurs chairman Daniel Levy appeared to have sealed the deal with Liverpool in talks after the club’s 2-0 victory over Chelsea. Spurs had made the £15m bid earlier in the day in a final attempt to get Keane who was left out of Rafael Benitez’s squad for the game at Anfield.
Having told Spurs that they were only interested in a deal that involved cash plus a player – preferably Aaron Lennon – Liverpool are understood to have relented last night and agreed to sell a player who cost them £20.3m last summer. The club's owners George Gillett and Tom Hicks were at the game yesterday and met with chief executive Rick Parry and Benitez after the match.
It is understood that Spurs will sign the Internazionale striker Mario Balotelli, who has fallen out with Jose Mourinho, on loan. Benitez is hopeful that Real Madrid will release the Argentina striker Javier Saviola on loan.
Spurs renewed their efforts for Keane after learning on Friday that Jermain Defoe had suffered a broken metatarsal. The club have optimistically said that they believe the player could return in four weeks but in private they are worried that the recovery could take a lot longer.
Benitez’s decision to drop Keane, who was at Anfield yesterday, from his squad for the game against Chelsea were the first signs that his short Liverpool career was over, as did the Spaniard's faltering answers after the match to questions about the future if Keane, a life-long Liverpool fan.
Would Keane see out the season at Anfield? Benitez was asked. “I think so,” he said. “[Keane] was there [at the ground today],” he said. “He was OK. We didn’t say anything [about the offer]. We were just talking about the game. I will not talk about ‘if’, ‘if’. ‘if’. He is our player. That’s it.” Asked would Keane been in Liverpool ’s Champions League squad for the knock-out phase, Benitez mumbled: “Yes, I think so.”
Keane’s six-month spell at Liverpool has been little short of a disaster for the striker. He had seen it as the chance to play Champions League football but his relationship with Benitez has been terrible. The player has angered his manager by muttering under his breath when substituted – something that was caught on television and Benitez regarded as unacceptable. Keane made 28 appearances and scored seven goals for Liverpool.
Liverpool regained a grip on Manchester United’s coattails last night, though the key to their victory over Chelsea – the sending off of Frank Lampard - was a dubious one.
Chelsea manager Luiz Felipe Scolari refused to launch into an attack on referee Mike Riley over the 60th minute dismissal of Lampard, which turned the course of the game and allowed Fernando Torres to score 89th and stoppage time goals. But he pleaded with the FA to consider rescinding that red card and instead penalise his own full back Jose Bosingwa, for placing his studs into the back of Liverpool ’s Yossi Benayoun as they tussled for the ball near the corner flag in the third minute of second half injury time.
“Bosingwa was not correct,” said Scolari, whose side remains five points behind Manchester United with one game more played. “Maybe he should have punishment from the FA, but he should have punishment and maybe not Lampard. Lampard should play the next game. We’ve asked the referee and the FA to look at the video.”
Lampard, dismissed three times in 11 months now, clearly made contact with the ball in the challenge with Liverpool ’s Xabi Alonso which earned him the red. Scolari also made no mention of a bad challenge by Steven Gerrard on Jon Obi Mikel, two minutes before the dismissal. Gerrard was not even cautioned, despite failing to make any contact.
The underlying divisions at Anfield were underlined by the positions taken up by at opposite ends of the director’s box taken up the club’s owners Hicks and Gillett and their entourages. Seats normally reserved for club scouts had to be released for Gillett, who told the fans in front of him that he had never tried to sell out to Dubai International Capital (DIC).
Also at Anfield were members of the Kuwaiti Al-Kharafi family and a property executive, whom the Hicks camp has been talking to about helping to fund a 60,000-seat replacement stadium for Anfield. There were more protests against the owners outside the ground last night. The game left Scolari admitting that Chelsea ’s chances of taking the title were “no more in our hands” though, as usual, he rejected talk of pressure. “I’m meant for football and I lose and I win. It’s not a problem in my life. If I do my best, I do not have a problem.”