Roy Keane rejected Real Madrid, who said they wanted him, to join Celtic despite Gordon Strachan saying he was ‘not worried’ about signing him


Kylian Mbappe and Roy Keane have one thing in common: they both turned down attractive transfers to Real Madrid.

Only Mbappe knows the exact reasons behind his decision to extend his stay at Paris Saint-Germain, however, the incredible salaries and power allegedly offered to him must have played a part.

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Keane turned down advances from Real Madrid after leaving Manchester United in 2005

Keane’s reasons are more complex. Manchester United weren’t begging him to stay as a massive falling out with Sir Alex Ferguson and his assistant Carlos Quieroz led to all parties agreeing a parting ways was the best course of action.

In fact, even other clubs interested in him didn’t show him in the conventional sense, with then-Celtic manager Gordon Strachan apparently not caring too much about whether Keane would sign for him or not.

Keane joined the Scottish giants in December 2005 and it was his conversation with Strachan that turned out to be a masterclass in reverse Scottish psychology.

Keane said in his autobiography ‘The Second Half’: “When a club is interested in you, the manager usually sells it to you: ‘Listen, we’d love to have you here.’

“But I met Gordon Strachan, Celtic manager, in London…and Gordon said to me, ‘I’m not too worried if you sign for us or not. We’re fine without you.

“So I was like, ‘f*** him, I’m signing.’ I think that was one of the reasons I signed for them – to prove Gordon wrong.


Most clubs go on the charm offensive when.  Strachan took the opposite approach, but it worked

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Most clubs go on the charm offensive when. Strachan took the opposite approach, but it worked

On the other hand, Real Madrid made it clear how much they want him – Keane shed light on the conversation he had with Los Blancos director of football Emilio Butragueno.

“He said, ‘look Roy, we’ll be happy to have you.’ The club’s board only had to approve the deal, it was standard procedure.

However, before the deal was sanctioned, Keane inexplicably changed his mind and said no to the biggest club in the world.

As a proud Irishman, Celtic was a dream move for him. Meanwhile, he was confident he would have more impact at this team than with one of Europe’s biggest clubs aged 34 at the time.

However, he later admitted that the fear of starting a new life in an unfamiliar country played a huge role.

Strachan's words may have inadvertently tapped into Keane's insecurities

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Strachan’s words may have inadvertently tapped into Keane’s insecurities

He added: “I should have appreciated Real’s offer more. It was the most attractive challenge available to me…

“I took a negative approach…it could have been great for my kids. Time and practice could have given me another breath of life, two more years of play; I may have learned new techniques for my stretching.

“But instead – as usual – I was looking at what could go wrong. ‘Retrospective’ is the word af*****. At the time, it was the right decision.

“I didn’t want to move to Spain. As much as anything else, it was fear that decided me – fear of the unknown. And I threw excuses in front of me – family, language, raising children.

Keane won a league title and Scottish League Cup at Celtic but retired at the end of the 2005/06 season on medical advice.

Mbappe hopes he won’t have the same regrets for turning down Real Madrid in the coming years.

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