With barely a year separating Craig Bellamy and Robbie Keane in age, the Welsh forward’s decision to retire from international football following his sides failure to qualify for Brazil 2014 has some fans worrying that the 33-year-old Ireland captain may soon follow suit.
The two have enjoyed remarkably similar careers at club level and broken transfer records on several occasions over the years, but while Keane found stability with Tottenham Hotspur between 2002 and 2008 (where he scored over 100 goals) Bellamy has failed to ever settle, never spending more that four seasons at any one club.
Both are recognised as great leaders and senior statesmen for their national teams, though again Keane is far more prolific than his Welsh counter-part. The Ireland striker has scored 61 goals in 130 senior appearances, compared to Bellamy’s relatively tame tally of 19 goals and 73 caps, though it should be pointed out that injuries have curtailed Bellamy’s influence on the game, the Welshman failing to string more than 14 consecutive games together in his first 12 years as a professional. Keane, by comparison. has managed to avoid any major injuries through-out his career.
This gulf in numbers can be explained by the difference in the pair’s styles of play. Keane is more in the traditional poachers mould, cropping up to finish from a couple of yards and generally staying in-and-around the box, occasionally dropping deep to set up attacks and take the pressure off the midfield. Bellamy, on the other hand, relies on his pace, running at opposing defenders and regularly switching out onto the wing.
Bellamy and Keane have both also enjoyed extended runs as captains of their national teams, Robbie being handed the armband in 2006 while Craig succeeded Ryan Giggs as Wales captain a year later. Bellamy stood down as captain of Wales in January 2011 however, just two months after a divisive ‘club v country’ debate, citing injury troubles.
Indeed, Bellamy’s tendency to get himself in trouble (more than once) has affected his career for both club and country, his fiery disposition causing problems both on and off the field. Sir Bobby Robson, Bellamy’s manager while at Newcastle, once described him as “a great player wrapped round an unusual and volatile character”, and later commented that the Cardiff-born player “could start an argument with himself“. In contrast, Keane very rarely gets booked and is rarely in the news for anything other than his performances.
Bellamy has cited the need for young players to stand up and be counted as one of his reasons for retiring. With a new crop of Irish talent currently emerging and young strikers like Shane Long and Robbie Brady chomping at the bit, will Keane also decide that the time has come for him to step aside?