Just five months after turning his back on the Premier League Robbie Keane looks set to make a dramatic return as he closes in on a two month loan move to Aston Villa.
While there is no doubt that Keane has nothing to prove with the Republic of Ireland, the requirement to stay match fit a bare requisite to a place in the starting 11, the move to the midlands does offer the LA Galaxy striker the chance to prove to his doubters that he still has what it takes to compete at the highest level.
His move to the big money footballing retirement home that is fast becoming the MLS has re-invigorated Keane however a disastrous three year spell in the premier league which began with his ill fated move to dream club Liverpool has left many questioning his status as a top Premiership striker.
That Anfield spell ended with a return “home” for an equally disastrous second spell at Tottenham Hotspur where loan spells with Celtic and West Ham aside Keane spent a lot of time on the bench.
Keane never really settled at White Hart Lane the second time round despite his status as captain and it was clear that Harry Redknapp wasn’t the biggest fan of the Tallaght man, ill-advised Christmas parties in Dublin aside.
A loan move to Celtic in 2010 proved to be a big success and despite not winning the SPL title Keane showed us all that he still knew how the find the back of the net.
However a second loan spell last season with West Ham United sadly was not the success everyone wished for Ireland’s all time record scorer.
That spell at Upton Park ended with relegation for the East London side with an injury hit Keane scoring just two goals in only eight appearances for the Hammers.
Since his August move to LA Galaxy Keane has embraced the LA life and has settled in well helping the club to the MLS cup. However the standard of the MLS is nothing compared to the EPL, not to mention the challenges he faces at Aston Villa over the next two months.
That challenge is to prove that under pressure Villa boss Alex McLeish was right in his very public courtship of Keane.
On paper it would appear to be a good move for both parties, Villa’s strike force certainly wouldn’t terrorize many teams in the Premier League with Emile Heskey, Gabby Agbonlahor, Darren Bent and unknown Austrian striker Andreas Weimann Keane’s rivals for a place in the starting line up.
Villa has scored 22 goals so far this season with the preferred strike pair of Bent and Agbonlahor scoring 11 of those.
With Agbonlahor the more flexible of the existing striker force, and likely to be asked to move out wide the question mark hanging over McLeish now will be to how to forge a partnership between leading scorer Bent and Keane something that Juande Ramos and Harry Rednapp both failed to achieve during the players stay at White Hart Lane.
Bent appears to prefer being the focal point of the attack, a 4-5-1 more suited to his talents, hence the relatively successful partnership with the versatile Agbonlahor who has a tendency to drift out to the wings.
Meanwhile Keane is definitely an old school 4-4-2 system man and that usually means a target man up front alongside him, his best spell in English football remains his time up front alongside Dimitar Berbatov that could mean that the not so prolific Emile Heskey could play a large part in any Keane/Villa success.
Of course the conundrum could be made all the more easier if as is being rumoured in the press Bent jumps ships for Liverpool or new admirers QPR however given the price tag that seems unlikely for now which means that It’s vital for the next two months that both Bent and Keane help each other to assure that Aston Villa end the season in the top half of the table like they have done in the previous four Premier League seasons.
For Keane, this represents maybe his last opportunity to show the Premier League that he can still perform at the highest level, with Irish colleagues Shay Given and Richard Dunne in the Villa changing room settling in won’t be an issue, showing his has the ability and legs for the highest level will.
Whatever happens, it promises to be an intriguing next two months and summer for the Irish captain