LOS ANGELES – Republic of Ireland striker Robbie Keane touched down in Tinseltown on Thursday after completing a transfer from English Premier League team Tottenham Hotspur to the Major League Soccer's Los Angeles Galaxy. Keane, the team's most significant signing since David Beckham, will make his debut Saturday after vowing to give MLS' most visible franchise the elusive championship it craves.
Keane, his nation's all-time leading international scorer, will earn around $4 million per season with the Galaxy.
If the club manages to lift the MLS Cup in November for what would be its first trophy in the Beckham era, the contract will look like a bargain. Any other outcome, irrespective of how many goals Keane scores, will make the outlay seem like an unnecessary extravagance.
"Coming at this stage of the season is interesting because the Galaxy are doing well, and I want to help that continue," said Keane, who gave his first American interview to Yahoo! Sports upon his arrival at Los Angeles International Airport. "The club wants success and that is why I am here, too. Hopefully within a few months we are going to be going for the title."
Keane likely will see some action from the substitutes' bench this weekend when the Galaxy, which currently leads the Western Conference with a league-best record of 13-3-9, hosts the San Jose Earthquakes at the Home Depot Center.
At 31, Keane is younger than both Beckham and Thierry Henry were when they arrived in MLS, a switch that lends some weight to the theory that the league is no longer a retirement home for faded European stars seeking a final payday.
However, there is significant pressure on Keane to deliver a title even before he has kicked a ball, a challenge he claimed to embrace.
Keane has had an impressive career in Europe. He cost Coventry City nearly $10 million in transfer fees as a teenager, then was snapped up by Italian giant Inter Milan for more than $20 million just after his 20th birthday. After returning to England, he has been owned by some of the EPL's leading clubs such as Leeds United (before their decline), Liverpool and most recently Tottenham.
Critics say he has not had a truly productive season for three years, and no EPL team was willing to meet his pay demands ahead of this year's campaign, which just began in England. His second and most recent stint at Tottenham was filled with disappointment as he fell out of favor with manager Harry Redknapp and was loaned out to Glasgow Celtic and then West Ham.
However, he has remained a prolific finisher for Ireland, with 51 goals in 109 national team games, and it is that killer instinct in the penalty area that the Galaxy is banking on resurfacing.
L.A. has looked strong this season, with Beckham and Landon Donovan providing the star power and dynamic Brazilian midfielder Juninho supplying the heartbeat. A spot for Keane was created by trading under-performing Colombian Juan Pablo Angel to L.A. neighbor Chivas USA, although it is understood that the Galaxy may still have to cover some of Angel's wages.
Like any time a foreign star moves to the United States, questions will arise regarding his motivation. Keane's wife, Claudine, is a model who has made no secret of her delight at coming to America and came out ahead in a TMZ poll that asked whether or not she was more attractive than Victoria Beckham.
Keane's arrival at LAX was greeted by a throng of paparazzi and fans from the Angel City Brigade, the Galaxy's most vocal fan group. Keane vowed to match that passion with strong commitment of his own and was adamant that he is in the U.S. for the right reasons.
"I am fit and hungry and ready to go," said Keane. "I hope that they will just throw me in the deep end and let me show what I can do.
"I know it will take a little time to adapt to a different team and a different league. Of course there will be a little difference in the style of play, but I am confident. I have produced everywhere I have been, and I want to get in there and start scoring goals."
Four years after it started splashing the cash in search of success, L.A.'s hunger for an MLS Cup remains unsatisfied. Now it believes that the final piece just landed on its plate, and it may be right.
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