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Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 20 June 2018

UAE could well be former Liverpool star Robbie Keane's next destination - as player or coach

Well-travelled Irishman not ruling out stint in Emirates, a country he has often visited, but he will take time to arrive at decision

Former Tottenham Hotspur and Liverpool forward Robbie Keane has yet to decide whether to hang up his boots or move into coaching – and has not ruled out UAE football as a potential next destination.

The well-travelled Irishman has been spending time in Dubai following a season in the Indian Super League with Kolkata side ATK, which included contesting his final three matches as player-manager.

On Sunday, Keane participated in Hublot’s latest "Match of Friendship" in the shadow of the Burj Khalifa. Speaking afterwards, the Republic of Ireland’s all-time leading scorer said he planned to use the downtime to evaluate where next for his career.

“I’m going to take a few weeks off, have a break and decide what I want to do, whether I carry on playing, which is an option,” Keane, 37, said. “I could easily play for another couple of years, or I could start going down the coaching role.

“As I said, I’ll take a bit of time to consider and then we’ll see. But by no means will I be sitting idle.

"It’s just seeing my options. I finished in India, had nine starts, nine goals, so I definitely have another good year, two years left in me scoring a few goals. There’s no question about that.

"For me, it’s just about the right opportunities. There’s always options, but we’ll see."

Keane said he had a good stint in terms of the experience and learning going forward to be a coach. "That’s something I’ve been very clear about, that I want to get into in the future," he said.

"Whether or not it’ll be next year or the year after, who knows? But if a good opportunity came up in terms of coaching, I’d have to sit down and seriously consider it.

“For me, it’s about learning. It’s not about jumping into something and then regretting after. A manager’s career could be 30 years, so I’ve got time. I’m not in any rush to jump into anything that is going to maybe set me up for failure or because it may sound attractive, but is not the right one for me.”

Robbie Keane took part in a training session with his ATK teammates at the Nad Al Sheba Sports Complex last year. Christopher Pike / The National
Robbie Keane took part in a training session with his ATK teammates at the Nad Al Sheba Sports Complex last year. Christopher Pike / The National

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Keane, who has scored close to 400 senior goals in a career spanning 20 years, said he would look at offers both in Asia and Europe. A regular visitor to Dubai, he spent a brief time last year training with Arabian Gulf League club Al Ahli and was impressed by both the standard of players and the facilities.

“Fantastic," he said. “I’ve been coming here for 12 years. It’s a place I’m very, very close to. It’s certainly very attractive in terms of the people, the good standard of living for my family also. Training with Al Ahli was great; I met a good few people. I really enjoyed it, so who knows?”

Keane attended last Thursday’s President’s Cup quarter-final between Fujairah and Al Ain on invitation from Fujairah manager Diego Maradona.

Asked if he could consider extending his playing career in the UAE, he said he "would never say never".

"It’s certainly something that would interest me, of course. I always keep my options open. As I said, it’s a place I’m very, very used to," he said.

“I got invited to go along by Diego to watch the game. It was good to see him and he invited me for dinner. We’ll see what the future holds.”

Keane on …

Liverpool’s Uefa Champions League bid: “They’re great. With the attacking force they have, for me, they’re certainly one of the favourites. You look at the teams left in it - they’re capable of scoring against anybody at any given time. Defensively they’ve been good, so I don’t see any reason why they couldn’t go on and win it.”

Mohamed Salah’s debut campaign at Anfield: “Unbelievable. He’s been phenomenal. You can name the front three, but for him on a personal level, he’s been unreal. He’s been great to watch and hopefully he can continue now until the end of the season - which I’m sure he will, because he’s been in fine form. He’s been incredible this season.”

Zlatan Ibrahimovic’s instant impact at former club LA Galaxy: “Brilliant. It’s been a great start for him and for the club. They were crying out for another big name there. They were lacking that, for the prestige of LA Galaxy. And now they have one of the finest stars. I hope they can go win something this year.”