By Mark Jones
Although Roy Keane staved off a decision regarding his future with Manchester United last weekend, it now looks increasingly likely that theRepublic of Ireland captain will be on his way out of Europe’s mostsuccessful soccer club at the end of the season.
Reputedly offered a contract worth £12 million over five years, Keanerefused to sign on the dotted line and will be free to enter into a pre-contract agreement with another club on January 1.
The top spin put on Keane’s dilemma suggests that money is not at the centerof the protracted negotiations between player and club. However, as any dealwill be the Cork born star’s last chance to cash in on his deserved ratingas one of the world’s finest midfielders, money clearly has a major role to play.
Despite leading Manchester to an unprecedented treble of European Champions League, English Premiership and FA Cup wins last season, Keane is not currrently paid as much as other Premiership players such as Alan Shearer, Marcel Desailly and David Ginola.
If he does join another club next year — Italian giants Juventus are believed to be more than interested — then Keane will receive a massive signing-on fee under the Bosman ruling, as well as a more lucrative financial package than anything Manchester are prepared to offer.
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"Under the deal we’ve offered him, Roy will be by far the best paid player in the history of Manchester United," said the club’s chairman, Martin Edwards.
"We’ve stretched ourselves over this, but Roy is not irreplaceable, nobody is. Great players have left this club, but life goes on."
Manager Alex Ferguson was not despondent about Keane’s refusal to sign.
"It actually gives me time to work on Roy, time for us to let him know how much we all want him to stay at the club. He has said he will not be talking to other clubs until next summer and that’s encouraging in that he’s entitled to do so in January."
"I’ll be making a decision concerning my future at the of the season," was Keane’s only comment.