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Celtic’s failed Robbie Keane loan shows Rangers need more than Aaron Ramsey to secure Champions League riches

WHEN news of the prospective transfer first broke on Sky Sports early on deadline day, fans were gobsmacked.

Could it be true? Could their struggling club really be bringing in a world-class footballer? How could they possibly afford him? Were his wage demands not far too high?

The prospect was an exhilarating one for supporters. So much so, that they left their homes and workplaces in their thousands and flocked to the stadium in the hope of catching a glimpse of the renowned internationalist as he arrived for talks. 

“It’s absolutely fantastic,” said one disbelieving punter when he was interviewed by a television reporter. “It’s just won us the league.”

When the man in question walked out of the front door late at night after finalising a loan deal and held his new strip aloft, he was met by a roar that was louder than the reaction to a last-minute winner in an Old Firm game.

Yes, Robbie Keane signing for Celtic back on February 1, 2010, was quite an event.

The Republic of Ireland striker did not disappoint thereafter. He showed why Coventry City, Inter Milan, Leeds United, Spurs and Liverpool had all parted with multi-million pound sums to secure his services over the years. He scored 16 goals in 19 appearances.

However, there was, as Paolo Di Canio would have said, just “one leetel problem”. The rest of the team was nowhere near good enough.

Keane found himself playing alongside Edson Braafhied, Morten Rasmussen, Landry N’Guemo, Josh Thompson, Marc Crosas, Dionmansy Kamara and Zheng Zhi at Parkhead.

A scandalous lack of investment in the squad by the Celtic board coupled with some poor recruitment played into the hands of Rangers and their wily and experienced manager Walter Smith.  

The League cup winners would go on to clinch the Premier League by a  comfortable six point margin and secure a lucrative place in the Champions League group stages.

Keane and his team mates lost 4-0 to St Mirren in Paisley in the league, a defeat which resulted in Tony Mowbray getting sacked, in March and were beaten, after Neil Lennon had taken temporary charge, 2-0 by First Division rivals Ross County in the semi-final of the Scottish Cup at Hampden in April. They would finish a wretched 2009/10 season empty-handed.

Time will tell if Aaron Ramsay, the Welsh superstar who was lauded like a hero by jubilant Rangers fans on the steps of Ibrox on Monday evening after agreeing a temporary switch from Juventus, can help the Glasgow giants to rediscover their swagger and retain the cinch Premiership title. 

The 31-year-old, who could make his debut in the Premiership match against Hearts in Govan tomorrow, is a sensational talent and has shown in his appearances for his national team this term that he has, despite his issues in Italy of late, lost none of his ability or desire.

Yet, the failed Robbie Keane experiment at Celtic shows that one man, no matter how gifted or revered, cannot single-handedly land silverware in Scotland.

If there are problems elsewhere at Rangers – and the draws with Aberdeen and Ross County last month and the humiliating defeat to Celtic in midweek strongly suggested that there are – then there is only so much that Ramsey will be able to do.

The former Arsenal midfielder’s work rate, football intelligence, perfectly-timed runs into the opposition penalty box and clinical finishing will be wasted if his team mates continue to gift their rivals soft goals and show a lack of fight.

It is wrong to compare Giovanni van Bronckhorst’s side to Mowbray’s team. They are far superior in every department. Their loss this week was only the second they had suffered in 63 outings in the Premiership. They have reached the knockout rounds of the Europa League for the third season running.

Still, it is obvious they are, after three underwhelming transfer windows, foundering. The same cannot be said across the Clyde at the new top flight leaders. Ange Postecoglou has lavished over £20m on 19 new players in the past seven months and it shows.

Van Bronckhorst still has the personnel at his disposal to win the league, progress further in Europe and lift the Scottish Cup in the coming months.

But the Dutchman must quickly raise morale among his charges following a disappointing run and inject energy and invention into their play to prevent the season from imploding.

The involvement of Ramsey and Manchester United youngster Amad Diallo will certainly help his cause. So, too, will the return of Alfredo Morelos from international duty and Leon Balogun and Ryan Jack from injury. They cannot possibly play as poorly again. Can they? 

There are, though, many parallels between Rangers at the moment and Celtic when Keane was there.

There is a huge amount at stake this season. The Premiership champions should be handed a ticket to the Champions League group stages. The Parkhead club have speculated to accumulate. Their Ibrox rivals? Not so much.

 

Will they, despite the expensive acquisition of Aaron Ramsey, end up paying a high price come May?

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