Sean points out the problems Robbie Keane’s heroic return to White Hart Lane have posed for Jermain Defoe, of recent heroic return to White Hart Lane fame. Going back is often the comfortable option for players keener on hearing their name sung than challenging for trophies. I mean, I was delighted when Shaun Wright-Phillips returned to City, but is he really less good than the two-headed mediocrity that is ‘Kalouda’?
But there is a heart-warming tale in Italy at the moment of what it means to go back for the right reasons, and the success it can bring.
In January 2004 a 24 year old Argentine striker was bought by Genoa CFC from Racing Club. Diego Milito made an instant impact in Serie B: scoring twelve in seventeen as Genoa struggled to fifteenth in the league. 2004/05 was a triumph for him, scoring twenty-one goals as Genoa finished top of Serie B. But some serious rule-breaking meant that Genoa started 2005/06 not in Serie A but in Serie C1, and Milito was sold to Real Zaragoza.
At Zaragoza Milito flourished. He finished fourth in the Pichichi table in his first season (15 from 35), and then second in 2006/07, with 23 from 36. Last season, however, Zaragoza struggled and were relegated from the Primera Division. Nevertheless, from his three seasons for the Blanquillos Milito had scored 53 goals in 104 La Liga matches : a wonderful record.
But Zaragoza could no longer afford his wages, and he had to move. He had offers from Real Madrid, Tottenham Hotspur and Manchester City but on deadline day he chose to return to Genoa, the team who gave him his big opportunity, now back in Serie A.
An instant hero for the Rossoblu even before he pulled the shirt back on, he has done great things this season. Fourteen goals in seventeen Serie A starts put him behind only Marco di Vaio in the scoring charts. More importantly, his Genoa side are flying high in fourth, set for a Champions League place and only four points behind second place AC Milan.
And with Carlos Tévez rotting on the Manchester United bench, Milito is surely (pace Gonzalo Higuaín) Diego Maradona’s first choice centre forward for the upcoming World Cup qualifiers against Venezuela and Boliva.
What chance Robbie Keane having a similar impact at Spurs?