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Robbie Keane: Klopp is one of the Premier League’s greats

21 Feb | BY Robbie Keane | MIN READ TIME |
Robbie Keane: Klopp is one of the Premier League’s greats

The Betway ambassador discusses Jurgen Klopp's impending Liverpool exit, the impressive performances of Richarlison and Rasmus Hojlund and the exciting future of the Irish national team.

Klopp will be a huge loss to the Premier League

Like everybody else, it was a big surprise for me to find out that Jurgen Klopp will leave Liverpool. He’s been a top, top manager for a long time, and completely changed Liverpool and the club’s mentality by winning the title and the Champions League.

He’s been a breath of fresh air for the Premier League, and it’s going to be a shame to lose him because he has been one of the greats. His personality and energy will be a huge loss.

It can go one way or the other when the players know the manager’s leaving, but Liverpool have actually performed well since the announcement. Klopp is good at getting the team to focus and letting them know it’s not about him, it’s about the team.

I think it’d be fitting if Jurgen could win the league in his last year, but I keep changing my mind when predicting the title race. I definitely wouldn’t write Man City off, even though they drew with Chelsea at the weekend. They’re still a top team.

Arsenal’s win over Liverpool has certainly given them a lot of confidence, and the run they’ve gone on has been very impressive. They’ve scored 21 in their last five games, so they’re certainly playing like a team with a chance to win the title.

Everyone’s speaking about Xabi Alonso being Liverpool’s next manager. I played with Xabi – he’s a top guy, a top person, and what he’s doing in Germany has been very, very impressive. He certainly would be the choice for Liverpool fans. He’s already shown with Bayer Leverkusen.

Richarlison is showing what he’s capable of

Son Heung-Min coming back for Tottenham is huge. He’s the captain, and with his energy, his goals and assists, he was always going to be a loss. It’s certainly nice to have him back.

Richarlison has been in good form, and that’s what people been waiting for. We know that he’s capable of scoring goals because he’s done it for Everton and Brazil. It just takes time, sometimes, for a player to fit into a system. It was difficult for him to play a lot of minutes last season when Harry Kane was there, but he’s doing that now. When you’ve got people like Son and James Maddison assisting you, you always have a chance to score, and Richarlison been very good.

It was a big loss for Spurs against Wolves at the weekend. Wolves are a good team, but those are the games that you need to be winning if you want to finish in the in the top four.

Tottenham have a chance but Manchester United are going on a bit of a run, and they’re always going to be a threat with the players that they have. They’ve had an inconsistent season but they’re hitting form at the right time.

You can see Hojlund’s confidence growing

I’ve been really impressed by Rasmus Hojlund. It always takes a little bit of time when you go for the fee that he has, and he’s only 20 years of age. Like any striker, you’re judged on scoring goals, but I think he brings more than that to the team. Now he’s adding goals to his game and you can see already the difference in confidence. That’s what goals do for you.

He’s only a young lad, he looks like he’s willing to learn, and when he scores you can see how pleased the other players are for him, so he seems a good lad. He just needs to keep going, keep doing what he’s doing and he’s going to get better.

Lifting the Toto Cup with Maccabi Tel Aviv

I was obviously very proud to win my first trophy as a manager. It’s always nice to win, and especially in your first season. I was very happy for everyone in the team, the players and my staff.

As a player I won the League Cup in England and the MLS Cup three times, but your first as a manager is very important because you can say that you’ve done it, and hopefully it stands you in good stead going forward.

The team have gone through a little bit of a dip in the last few weeks. This league is tough, and when teams play against you, everything is a low block and trying to catch you on the counter-attack. Every game is a big day out for our opponents – it’s probably their biggest game of the season.

We need to start getting back to winning ways. We’ve had a few injuries to players who we now have back. One of our main players, Felicio Milson, is back from the AFCON. Hopefully we can get a run together and perform like we did at the start of the season.

Exciting young team awaits Ireland’s next manager

A Belgium and Switzerland double-header will be two tough games for whoever comes in as Ireland manager. You don’t really get many bigger games than that and as a manager you want to get off to a good start, but it’s more about how you can build for the next few years.

A new manager needs to come in now and put his own identity and philosophy on how he wants his team to play. Are they going to be a pressing team, a team that tries to build from the back, or are they going to get in people’s faces? It depends on what manager comes in, what style he wants to implement, and what personnel he brings into that group.

We have Evan Ferguson, and you want to how the manager is going to play to suit him because he’s the one that will get you goals. We have a lot of young players and it might take a couple of years to really get them together, but it feels like it’s a new cycle coming along so it will be exciting for the manager.

We’ve drawn England in the Nations League and it’s a tough group, but those are the games that you want to be playing. As players, you want to test yourself against the best teams. I played against England twice and we drew both games. That’s certainly a game I’ll be looking forward to watching, and hopefully I’ll get the chance to be in Dublin. I think the atmosphere will be incredible.

I hope Ireland can finish above England, but we have to be realistic. What they’ve done over the last six years with Gareth Southgate has been very good and they’re always there or thereabouts in tournaments. If you finish above England, I think you’re doing very well.

Scotland and Wales have qualified for Euro 2024 and we probably see ourselves in the category, in terms of the players that we have. Over the years, it was always us that was qualifying for tournaments so we need to start getting back there. We know how good the fans are when they travel, with the support they give to the team. I think every tournament needs Ireland in it.

Looking forward to the MLS season

I’ll be watching MLS this season, as I always do. It was a big part of my career, being there five and a half years and winning three championships, so I always look out for LA Galaxy. They haven’t had the best time in the last couple of years and with the history of the club they should be always fighting for the playoffs and the chance to win the MLS Cup. We know how difficult that league can be, but I hope they can hit a bit of form and get to the playoffs this season.

You’d have to say Inter Miami are the favourites because of Messi. He’s a top player, and you look at the players that they’ve brought in, with the Barcelona guys coming back and Luis Suarez now there as well, it will be interesting to see. They’ve definitely got every chance to win the MLS Cup, no question about it.

My time in MLS was incredible. I loved the lifestyle, loved the people and enjoyed the league immensely. The fans were great, and LA Galaxy is a wonderful club with wonderful people to work for. It’s different to the Premier League because as kids you always want to go and play in England, but it came just at the right stage in my career and I have nothing but good things to say about it.

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Robbie Keane

Robbie Keane

Republic of Ireland's all-time record goalscorer who also scored 355 goals in 737 club appearances.

Robbie Keane

Robbie Keane

Republic of Ireland's all-time record goalscorer who also scored 355 goals in 737 club appearances.