It takes a lot to impress the Irishman – especially if you’re playing for Liverpool.
Keane has spent his peak as captain of Manchester United and often finds it difficult to congratulate the players of his former club, let alone their rivals.
However, with Jurgen Klopp’s dominant team in the Premier League, even he has softened to some of the Reds’ best players.
Virgil van Dijk
Van Dijk is the Liverpool player who Keane says would get a combined XI of the 2019/20 Reds team and Man Utd’s 1998/99 triple winners.
Now is not the time to debate the merits of this particular claim, but it is worth remembering what the former Old Trafford favorite said about signing the Liverpool record.
“I’m a big fan of Van Dijk,” said Keane, while explaining his decision to team up with the Dutchman with compatriot Jaap Stam in his combined XI.
“The guy is a machine, but Jaap was a machine, Jaap was fantastic. Van Dijk touches the ball better. The two together, you can’t imagine conceding too many goals. ”
Keane may not have been so complimentary to some of Liverpool’s other central defenders, but Van Dijk is as close to praise as everyone else.
Keane recognized how important Salah was and highlighted how he became a new player at Anfield.
“You can see how it affects the other attacking players, they don’t seem to get into their rhythm without him,” said Keane after the Egyptian missed Liverpool’s draw with Man Utd.
“No one could have seen in recent years how much this guy was going to improve, and it is a huge loss for them when he is not available. Sometimes you don’t realize how good they are until they are available to you.
“It seems to affect the other two attackers as much as anything else. You take them for granted, his goals and assists, then when he misses, you think “my goodness, he’s a great player for us”. “
Trent Alexander-Arnold and Andy Robertson
Even when Keane praises the Liverpool players, he will sometimes find time to dig in the middle of it all.
We saw it before Christmas, when he considered the Reds’ back pair to be on a different level from their direct opponents in the win against the Spurs.
“Okay, there are parts of the game that can improve defensively, but in the future, absolutely fantastic,” he said.
Look, it still counts, even if he couldn’t bring himself to praise the duo wholeheartedly on this occasion.
Alexander-Arnold was also the closest Liverpool player to join Van Dijk in this combined XI, Keane admitting that the right-back has been “exceptional” this season but ultimately remains loyal to Gary Neville.
Given his status as one of the most influential Premier League midfielders of his time, Keane’s praise may well mean more for a central midfielder than for a player in a different position.
And it was Oxlade-Chamberlain, rather than his club and international colleague Jordan Henderson, who received glowing words from former man Man Utd before qualifying for the European Championships in England against Montenegro in late 2019.
“I like his appearance and when you have a midfielder who threatens the goals and who can put the ball in the back of the net then that is a huge plus,” said Keane of the former man. Arsenal, who returned from a long-term injury at the end of last season.
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“It’s nice to see him again because he had a difficult time, but he’s certainly a talented boy.”