Roy Keane – bearded, belligerent World Cup football pundit who tells it like it is

A few individuals caught the eye during the first week of the World Cup. Gavifor example, the 18-year-old prodigy who pulls the strings in the Spanish midfield; Olivier Giroudat 36, the French eldest in the intelligent attacking game.

In the eyes of many, however, the standout performance came from Roy Kean, The brooding, bearded and belligerent ITV pundit. Never known before for his reluctance to give his opinion, the former Manchester United midfield general seems, on the contrary, to be becoming increasingly incisive. If anything clear and obvious needs to be said, Keane is your man.

His assessment of England’s display in the disastrous stalemate against the United States? “They looked long, they looked on pace, they looked out of ideas… In fact, a terrible performance.”

So Keane, sporting a tasteful multicolored pastel shirt and the kind of lush facial hair favored by craft beer lovers everywhere, summed up the emotions of millions of England fans.

It was before Argentina’s shock defeat to Saudi Arabia last Tuesday, however, when Keane identified the ethical dilemma faced by many regarding this most controversial tournament.

“The world Cup shouldn’t be here,” he said. “Just casually dismissing human rights because of a football tournament…that’s not right. Ultimately, we’re talking about common decency, how you treat people.

‘It shouldn’t be here’: Roy Keane condemns Qatar World Cup hosting – video

It was impossible to disagree. Keane referenced Fifa corruption, while forcefully drawing attention to the fact that same-sex relationships are illegal in the Gulf state. He sharply pointed out the exploitation of migrant workers, many of whom paid with their lives to put this show on the road. It had to be said.

Is it hypocritical of Keane to express such disgust while employed at the tournament? Maybe, but if he hadn’t gotten on the plane, who would have taken it upon himself to state the obvious on television during the day?

Ireland's Roy Keane training with Mick McCarthy (right) before the start of the 2002 World Cup.
Ireland’s Roy Keane training with Mick McCarthy (right) before the start of the 2002 World Cup. Photograph: Kirsty Wigglesworth/PA

It’s been 20 years since Keane broke sadly in Saipan and stormed the 2002 World Cup camp in Ireland, to protest what he saw as inadequate training facilities. He hasn’t mellowed with age.

In Qatar, the possibility that Keane and his fellow experts Graeme Souness coming to blows stays real, judging by the Argentina vs. Saudi Arabia show. “I am here to give my opinion. It’s not a penalty in my eyes,” Keane said increasingly agitated in a clash with the Scot, traditionally not someone to avoid a tackle or a heated debate.

“I heard you say it 10 times,” Souness replied. “Let someone else do the talking, you’ll learn a lot more.” If Keane has a blind spot, it’s surely his former Old Trafford team-mate Cristiano Ronaldo. Despite the weakened powers of the Portuguese and recent attempts to redefine the term prima donna, Keane will not hear a word against him. Manchester United have lost patience, and Keane surely wouldn’t have tolerated Ronaldo’s recent antics, either as a player or as a manager.

But maybe that’s the point. We are all hypocrites to some degree. Nobody’s perfect, but as an expert paid to give their opinion, Keane gets it right.

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