Robbie Keane appeared incredulous that the subject was up for debate. "Why am I so committed to Liverpool?" repeated the striker, his eyebrows lifting in tandem with his voice as though, having taken five transfers and 11 years as a professional to reach the club he supported as a boy, it was an affront to question his dedication to Anfield. But no strop, argument or walkout followed from the Republic of Ireland captain at the Philips Stadion. This was not a query he wanted to shy away from.
Liverpool's £20.3m summer acquisition from Tottenham Hotspur may have suspected the topic had been coming before he outlined why, contrary to reports, his Anfield career is not drawing to a close before it has taken off. Keane has made only 23 appearances for Rafael Benítez's team but has endured frequent torment amid Liverpool's march to the top of the Premier League and their Champions League group following victory over PSV Eindhoven on Tuesday.
Substituted 15 times and under instruction from his manager to "improve his level" - advice aired regularly in public - the 28-year-old has evidently still to prove himself in Benítez's eyes. The thought of turning his back on the challenge that has been laid down, however, with an escape route back to White Hart Lane touted for January, is not one Keane has entertained.
"There has been lots of speculation and people like to create something that's not there but that is out of my control. For me it's not even an issue," he insisted yesterday. "I have only just arrived here, I'm a Liverpool player, and I intend to be for a long time, not just five months.
"In life sometimes things don't go as well as you'd like. But I'm not just going to throw in the towel and accept it, you have to get out there, show what you're made of and put in performances like the one against PSV. I know I have got a future at this club. I don't want to see the headlines saying 'I'm staying' because that has never even been a question. I am staying because I have just arrived, I want to be part of a Liverpool side for the future and I want to be a big player for this club and I will keep working hard to try and make that happen."
Keane returned to the Liverpool attack against PSV having been benched at Blackburn Rovers and with Fernando Torres and Dirk Kuyt injured for the trip to the Netherlands. If it reflected the striker's predicament to have had a point to prove against PSV, following just four goals for Liverpool, then his second-half display illustrated his refusal to disappear under pressure.
"I will just keep going," he added. "It's not for me to say what I'm doing, but what I will say is I have only been here a few months and you should judge someone over a while, not judge them over just a few months and jump the gun. I know I will score a lot of goals for this club.
Sometimes it doesn't work out as well as you'd like but I know for a fact it's only a matter of time before I start scoring a lot of goals.
"In football everyone goes through stages. I don't want to keep harping on about it because I'm not worried so I don't see why others should be. I'm confident in my ability and always have been. I haven't scored all those goals over the last 10 years for nothing, and I know it's not going to stop now."
Chances were again at a premium for the Liverpool striker in Eindhoven but an immaculate assist for David Ngog's first goal for the club brought some reward to an industrious and creative display. The fact that his output improved playing off the centre-forward, something of a rarity so far for Keane at Anfield, was not lost on the Dubliner.
"I was getting involved a lot and enjoyed playing in the position off the main striker. That's my game, that's what I like to do," said Keane. "I love scoring but I love creating goals for others too and I did that for David. I feel happy enough with my performance."
Meanwhile Milan's vice-president, Adriano Galliani, has admitted the Italian club are considering a bid for Liverpool's 23-year-old defender Daniel Agger in the January transfer window.
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