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“Rafa made it personal” – Steven Gerrard speaks honestly about Robbie Keane’s time at Liverpool

robbie keane steven gerrard

Steven Gerrard on why Robbie Keane wasn’t successful at Liverpool.

Robbie Keane is one of Ireland’s best-ever players. The Dubliner scored 68 goals for the Republic of Ireland and had an illustrious career in the Premier League with six different clubs.

Keane’s half-season spell at Liverpool in 2008 was a disaster, however. He returned to Tottenham Hotspur at the first opportunity and Steven Gerrard gave his reasoning for Keane’s failure at Anfield.

Writing in his autobiography My Story with Donald McRae, Gerrard felt that manager Rafael Benitez interfered too much in Keane’s game.

Robbie Keane Steven Gerrard

Steven Gerrard was delighted when Robbie Keane signed for Liverpool.

“I had initially been delighted when we signed Robbie because he had done terrifically well at Tottenham alongside Dimitar Berbatov. But he wanted to play as number 10 at Liverpool. I felt we didn’t need him in that position as I was doing so fell in the role,” Gerrard wrote.

“He was a good addition to the squad but I worried it could become a problem either for him or me in a battle for the same position. But, more often than not, Rafa played me as a 10. There wasn’t room for both Robbie and I in Rafa’s team.

“I could see why Rafa had his doubts about playing Robbie in front of me. He had none of Torres’s pace. Robbie was far better when allowed to drop in behind and pick up intelligent spaces where he could set up and score goals. But it was obvious that his relationship with Rafa would never work.

Robbie Keane Steven Gerrard

Benitez tried to change Robbie Keane’s style of play.

“Instead of letting Robbie be the player he had signed, Rafa tried to change him. He had Robbie attempting movements which made him uncomfortable. Robbie would have been a success under most of the managers I played with at Liverpool.

“But Rafa made it personal. I couldn’t understand why Rafa tried to change a top player. Let him play his own game – that’s why we signed him.”

Keane and Gerrard played together in the MLS.

Keane played 28 games for Liverpool, scoring seven goals, before returning to Spurs in January 2009. He joined LA Galaxy in 2011 and played alongside Gerrard again for La Galaxy in 2015.

Since retiring, Keane has worked as a coach under Mick McCarthy for Ireland and was assistant manager to Jonathan Woodgate at Middlesbrough.

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(Originally published on May 26, 2021).

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