This article originally appeared in Future Sport magazine. Click here to read the 2021 edition.

Robbie Keane is arguably the greatest player to ever pull on the green jersey for the Republic of Ireland. He’s also a Premier League great, has won the MLS and is related to Barack Obama, kind of. As the Irishman now lays the foundations for life as a coach and manager, Future Sport caught up with Keane to discuss how his glittering playing career has set him up for the next phase of his career… 

From the muddy fields of Dublin to the bright lights of the World Cup, Robbie Keane’s playing career took him to places he could only dream about as a boy.

Like most youngsters in the Republic of Ireland, he dreamt of pulling on the famous green jersey and scoring goals at Lansdowne Road, but did he ever dream of setting foot on the pristine lawns of the White House and then-President Barack Obama claiming to be his cousin?

“As a lad from Dublin, having the opportunity to go to the White House was incredible,” he told Future Sport. “It was very surreal, a great opportunity and a great memory to meet the President.”

Keane, of course, was referencing one of his three trips to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue with LA Galaxy in a long-time tradition of America’s sporting champions being congratulated in person by the sitting US President. In what was a long and goal-filled career, Keane’s five years and three MLS Cups in California could easily be the highlight. The lad from Dublin has only one though.

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“All I ever wanted to do was put that green jersey on and as soon as I did it was definitely the proudest moment of my career”, he says.

Not only did Keane wear that green jersey with pride, he broke every record going and could quite easily be considered the Republic of Ireland’s greatest ever player. Earning a record 146 caps, he captained his country for over ten years and scored a record 61 goals as well as playing at the 2002 World Cup and two European Championships.

“I'm a proud Irishman,” he says. “Even when I was in LA and flying back for friendly games, it was never ever an issue for me. It was an honour and a privilege. The green jersey was certainly the one that fit best.”

It wasn’t just for his country that Keane scored goals for fun. He currently sits 15th in the all-time Premier League goal scorers list on 126, a record he is rightly proud of. Keane told Future Sport he knew he had the ability to score goals, but he still needed to work hard day in, day out to become the lethal finisher he was.

“If you don’t put in the hard work you won’t go far,” he says. “I wanted to be better – if my left foot wasn’t as good as my right foot I would practice and practice. I scored a lot of goals with both feet and that didn’t just come because I had a good left foot, it came from hard work and I think that’s important to become a striker and score all those goals.”

Keane’s most prolific spell came at White Hart Lane, where over two spells and ten seasons he became a firm favourite of the Tottenham faithful. After exploding on the scene at 17 with Wolves, Keane moved to Coventry City, then Inter Milan and Leeds United, all by the time he was 22, before finally settling in North London.

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It was at Tottenham were he won his only major honour in English football, the League Cup in 2008, alongside a famous Bulgarian. For two seasons at Spurs, Keane and Dimitar Berbatov paired up to form one of the league’s most deadly strike partnerships, amassing 91 goals between them in all competitions. From the moment they took to the pitch at White Hart Lane their bond was sealed.

“I got him straight away and our understanding on the pitch was incredible,” Keane says. “I always knew where he was and vice-versa; we had this understanding where if I went long he went short and it was very difficult for defences to play against us. We had a real connection from the very start.”

The pair were sold by Spurs later that summer, to Liverpool and Manchester United respectively. Whereas Berbatov went on to win two Premier League titles, Keane’s move north to his boyhood club wasn’t as successful – he returned to London just six months later.

Keane explained: “I signed there for a reason – to win things. Unfortunately, it didn’t work out the way I wanted it to and I had a manager who had different ideas to what I was told. Do I have any regrets? No, because you do things in life for a reason.”

It’s clear talking to Keane that he still loves football as much as he did before he retired from playing in 2018. And now heading into the beginning of his career as a coach, and as Ireland and Middlesbrough players have found out in recent years during Keane’s time as assistant, he has a lot to offer.

With his badges already under his belt, Keane is waiting for the right offer.

“I’ve made no secret that I want to be a manger one day but it has to be the right opportunity,” Keane says. “Some have come up but they haven't been right for me; I'm not going to jump into something that doesn't feel right. I'm looking forward to the future, to keep on learning, keep continuing to read, keep on asking questions and speaking to managers.”

He adds: “I'm always learning; you never stop learning.”