By Mark Jones
DUBLIN — Robbie Keane now looks certain to leave Inter Milan within the next few weeks. Initially, the top Italian club said the 20-year-old Republic of Ireland striker was not for sale. However, it is believed that Inter will accept an offer of £12 million.
English premier league clubs Leeds, Chelsea, Liverpool and West Ham have all expressed an interest in Keane, who has not been able to break into Inter’s starting lineup since he moved to Italy for an Irish record £13 million in late summer, but all offers have so far been rebuffed by the Italians.
However, if Leeds see fit to increase their bid from £10 million to £12 million, sources close to Inter suggest that Keane will be sold. The player is also believed to see Leeds as his No. 1 option and if he moved to the north of England he would team up with manager David O’Leary, a former Irish international, and current internationals Gary Kelly and Ian Harte.
When Keane left Coventry for Milan, Marcello Lippi was in charge, but he has recently been replaced as manager by Marco Tardelli, who has made it clear that he wants to offload the unsettled striker. With top-class forwards such as Alvaro Recoba, Christian Vieiri and Hakan Sukur, in the lineup, while the Brazilian Ronaldo is set to return after injury in the new year, Keane has little chance of playing first-team soccer in the near future.
Inter still have the option to loan him to another Italian club, but if Leeds up their bid sufficiently, Keane could be back in the English Premiership not long after Christmas.
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Shelbourne have opened up a 6-point lead in Ireland’s national soccer league after last week’s convincing 3-1 victory over UCD. Without yet hitting their best form, the reigning champions appear to be well on course to retain the title as they wrapped up the points at Tolka Park with first-half goals by Dessie Baker, Jim Crawford and Richie Baker.
Meanwhile, Bohemians failed to keep pace when they lost 3-1 to Bray Wanderers and are now in joint second place along with Shamrock Rovers, who got the better of St Patrick’s Athletic by 1-0 at Richmond Park, where Pat Deans scored 25 minutes from the end.