The Indian Super League (ISL) has seen some international icons take the field during the twilight of their career. Playing in a physically demanding league is a big task which requires great commitment and luck.
However, some attributes of a player such as an eye for a pass or accurate finishing rarely fades with time. Irish goal-scoring legend Robbie Keane was a prime example of the latter. But unfortunately, he was unlucky to spend a sizable term of his career with ATK injured.
Keane joined the then two-time champions at the beginning of the 2017-18 season. The forward who is considered a legend with Ireland and with Tottenham at the club level had the fans riding high on expectations with the announcement.
With 68 goals from 148 appearances, the striker finished his career as the all-time leading goal-scorer of the Republic of Ireland national team. He was known for his prolificacy in front of goal and incredible passion for the sport.
Goal caught up with ATK winger Jayesh Rane who shared a dressing room with the Irish star during the 2017-18 season. The 27-year-old was impressed by his finishing, labelling him the best finisher he has played with.
“We got to learn a lot from him. He was very good at finishing, so he used to teach us about that. When he became the interim coach, he taught us a lot about his way of playing.
“His finishing was top class. Among the players I’ve played with, I’ve never seen anyone with finishing as good as his,” he said.
ATK finished ninth in the 2017-18 season with just four wins in 18 games. But Jayesh believes things could have been vastly different had Keane been fit throughout the season. The forward played just nine games, with injury forcing him out of the remaining fixtures. Yet, Keane managed to score six goals.
“He is always fit. I follow him on Instagram, and he is always doing something or the other. He is playing somewhere or training at home or doing something. We were unlucky that he was injured when he was with us. Or else, it could have been a different result. He played only nine games but scored six goals. If we had him for the full season, it would have made a big difference,” he explained.
Keane took over as the player-manager at the end of the 2017-18 ISL season ahead of the 2018 Super Cup. ATK could not get past the last-16 in that tournament and Keane retired from professional football soon after.
He then went on to become the assistant manager of the Irish national team and is currently Jonathan Woodgate’s assistant at EFL Championship side Middlesbrough.
Meanwhile, Rane stayed at ATK for the subsequent seasons and recently played a key role in their third ISL title.