Robbie Keane has high expectations
CARSON, Calif. -- Robbie Keane made one thing clear right from the start: He knows what his job is, and he intends to do it. His new club, the L.A. Galaxy, hopes that will be enough to ensure a little silverware by year's end.
The Irish forward trained for the first time Friday with his Galaxy teammates and then was introduced to media, VIPs and fans at a Home Depot Center gathering saying he had a "good feeling" about his newest challenge and can't wait to get going.
He'll surely get his chance Saturday night, when L.A. takes on San Jose at HDC.
"I can tell you one thing," said Bruce Arena, the Galaxy's head coach and general manager. "Robbie wants to play 100 minutes tomorrow. We can only squeeze in 90. Let's see how he feels tomorrow."
Keane, 31, who joins the Galaxy following a breakneck-speed deal from English Premier League club Tottenham -- it took just seven days from first contact to transfer agreement to contract to visa approval to arrival Thursday night at LAX -- brings with him an enviable goal-scoring record, for club and country, that can only benefit Major League Soccer's first-place side.
He's scored 51 times in 109 international appearances for Ireland and another 123 in the EPL -- the vast majority in two stints with London-based Tottenham -- good for 10th on the all-time list. He'll be expected to fill the net for the Galaxy, perhaps as soon as Saturday.
"There's always expectation, there's always pressure on you," he said. "I've had that since I was 17 years of age, and it hasn't changed. There's always pressure as a striker to score goals, and that's something I relish, something I'm looking forward to.
"It's up to me to produce that now. I'm very confident in my abilities and what I can do."
It's all about getting past jet lag, adjusting to a new league (with its own set of challenges) and building chemistry with teammates, not least of all captain Landon Donovan and English midfielder David Beckham, who are among the top flight of MLS attackers.
"It's only going to take me a little bit of time to get used to it," Keane said. "I like challenges. I welcome them. This is a great, great challenge for me, and it's something I'm very excited about.
"I'm not here to be on holidays. I'm here to win things and score a lot of goals. That's the reason I'm here."
Keane steps into the role previously inhabited by Colombian forward Juan Pablo Angel, a first-class striker in four seasons with New York who scored just three times in 22 appearances this season with L.A. To open one of three Designated Player slots for Keane, the Galaxy this week traded Angel to cross-stadium rival Chivas USA, for whom he's expected to make his debut Saturday night at Colorado.
"We've lacked a little bit in the final third of the field, and Robbie's a player with a proven goal-scoring record," Arena noted. "He loves to play, he's a first-class person off the field, and I know he wants to be here. I think it's a combination that will only spell success."
Keane, who had fallen out of favor with Tottenham manager Harry Redknapp, has had interest in playing in the U.S. for some time, and the Galaxy made contact with his agent for the first time a few years ago. Keane said he received word L.A. wanted him on Friday.
"Straight away, I told them to make the deal happen," he said. "That's how interested I was to coming here. ... David came over to train with Spurs [at the start of the year], and he was very, very complimentary about the fans and everyone associated with the club and told me how good MLS was. I've watched it on TV on numerous occasions. The league certainly has grown, and hopefully I can be part of the big success of it."
Tim Leiweke, president of Galaxy owner AEG, said it was the fastest deal he's been part of -- an amazing feat "because this one was complicated ... probably the most complicated seven days I've ever seen."
In less than 72 hours, L.A. made contact, arrived at a transfer fee with Tottenham, reached agreement on a two-year contract with Keane, worked out logistics on the Designated Player slot, received approval from "various FIFA federations both here and over there" -- all while trying to beat MLS's summer transfer-window deadline, on Sunday night.
Then the real work began: acquiring for Keane a P-1 visa, with an expected wait time of two weeks. It was done in three days. The U.S. ambassador to Ireland -- Pittsburgh Steelers chairman emeritus Daniel Rooney -- and the Los Angeles-based Irish consul general, M. Finbar Hill, pulled strings to speed the pace, Leiweke said.
"We got lucky with that," Leiweke told ESPN Los Angeles. "We had great cooperation from the consulate general and the U.S. ambassador and his staff in Dublin. They got it. It's not lost on us that the guy who is ambassador to Ireland is a football owner."
Leiweke also heads AEG's efforts to build a downtown football stadium and lure an NFL team to Los Angeles.
Reports in the U.S., England and Ireland have Keane making about $9 million for the length of his contract after L.A. paid a transfer fee reported between $3 million and $6 million. Leiweke said those numbers were inaccurate.
"We never, ever release details of deals, but what I can tell you is [those numbers are] inflated, and that's between us and Robbie," he said. "The transfer fee isn't what everyone thinks the transfer fee is. We have a long relationship with Tottenham. There's other things to this deal, and time will show people that there's some other things that Tottenham and us agreed to as part of all of this."
Perhaps a friendly or two, in L.A. or London? "Possibly."
Keane says he's ready to go, that he wants to start his MLS tenure as quickly as possible and hopes to make an immediate impact.
"It's always nice to get thrown in straight away," he said. "That's how you get to know the league and how you get to know the players. And I always like to play games, and that's why I'm here. I'm really looking forward to the game."
Said Beckham: "Hopefully, Robbie will play tomorrow, will play as many minutes as possible, score a few goals. And then I'm sure Tim will bring in a pint of Guinness or two."
Arena said the Galaxy will be "smart" about introducing Keane to MLS.
"We realize there's been a lot of travel," Arena said. "We don't want to position him to be injured. We'll be smart about it, see how Robbie feels about it, and we'll make a decision before game time.
"I think you can expect he'll be on the field, though."