Martin King discusses whether or not Liverpool should sign former Manchester United centre-back Michael Keane.
It’s safe to say that whether Liverpool secure Champions League football for next season or not, theirs is set to be another pivotal and busy English summer.
The Reds will again be expected to enter the transfer market in search of top talent to improve on Jürgen Klopp’s current squad and on the long list of reported targets has been Burnley star Michael Keane.
The defender has been linked with a move to a number of top clubs, thanks to a string of impressive performances for his club this season, which have also seen him rewarded with two full caps for the England national side during this international break.
Keane may not be a priority signing for Liverpool, in fact, rivals Everton are the bookies’ favourite to land him, however, with the Reds in need of some quality in defence, the Englishman should certainly be considered a top reinforcement.
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Enough to send Merseyside-born Reds supporters into a state of unreasonable-yet-understandable anger towards the 24-year-old should be the fact he was born and bred in Manchester. Keane began his career at local giants Manchester United, signing for the club professionally in 2011 and making his first team debut in the same year under then boss Sir Alex Ferguson.
However, just the following year the defender joined Leicester City on loan and his time away from United would be prolonged by further spells at Derby County and Blackburn Rovers, before a final loan spell at Burnley was turned into a permanent deal in January 2015, keeping Keane at Turf Moor until the summer of 2018.
There, the 24-year-old has continued his development, spending a season in the second-tier of English football before Burnley’s promotion to the Premier League this season.
As important as the defender was in the club’s campaign for promotion, so has he been in their solid bid for survival this year. Keane has played in all 29 of the Clarets’ league games, shining through attractive qualities such as physical strength, comfort and confidence on the ball, as well as speed off it.
The Englishman has displayed great discipline and concentration, as he has only picked up two yellow cards and that he’s featured in each of Burnley’s Premier League games for 90 minutes speaks volumes of his durability.
That alone doesn’t answer the question that titles this article, though.
The main reason why Liverpool, and any other club for that matter, should seriously consider going after Keane this coming summer is quite simple and straightforward: growth.
Keane has proven that even away from boyhood club Manchester United, some first team experience is all he ever needed to achieve just that and it surely won’t be far from the minds of his suitors, and Burnley the club itself, that he is at a vital point in his career where he can gain a lot more growth to become a top-level centre-back – if anything, his initial experience with the senior England squad only supports that.
With that in mind, a number of clubs will be battling it out to be the one who helps give Keane that greater experience, which will in-turn aid him in his growth and Liverpool shouldn’t hold back in their attempts to win the war, especially as the Reds have got a manager with the ability to grow players like fuel does fire.
And while some observers view the fact that the Burnley defender is right-sided as a disadvantage, with Jöel Matip the overwhelming first-choice on the right of Liverpool’s central defence, that shouldn’t influence Klopp’s thinking negatively, as Keane has already demonstrated an ability to cover both his left and right-hand side, while the fact he managed a clean sheet for the national side against Lithuania, alongside a similar right-sided defender in John Stones should dispel such worries.
Add to that the fact Liverpool are in dire need of more right-sided central defensive quality, as Matip is still the only top right-footed option. Dejan Lovren and Ragnar Klavan are both left-sided centre-backs and while it may be fair to say that they’ve had their fair share of strong performances, it also cannot be ignored that they’ve had their struggles and though Lucas Leiva has also been another right-footed option, he surely can’t be relied upon as a defender for much long. Lovren might be right-footed but is more seemingly better suited to playing on the left side of defence.
Keane will surely add another strong right-sided option to Klopp’s squad, the Englishman will surely be buoyed by the opportunity to play at the top level, an experience which will surely aid him in his growth and besides, which Liverpool fans won’t want to rub salt in the surely regretful wounds of Manchester United?