Michael Keane: The Rising Star

LONDON, ENGLAND - MARCH 26: Michael Keane of England gestures to his team mates during the FIFA 2018 World Cup Qualifier between England and Lithuania at Wembley Stadium on March 26, 2017 in London, England. (Photo by Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images)

There are not many Englishmen who can say they have started for club and country whilst donning the claret and blue of Burnley. Michael Keane is one player who can.

Making his debut in the defeat to Germany, Keane later played 90 minutes in the World Cup qualifier against Lithuania and didn’t look out of place. This week was an example of his meteoric rise this season.

A modern centre-half

The 24-year-old can most certainly play. Against Lithuania, Keane hit a 50-yard-diagonal pass towards Kyle Walker which was mightily impressive. To perfect a technique with such nonchalance is something many had come to expect from an elite calibre of central defender.

Nonchalance is the word which encapsulates Keane’s first two starts in Three Lions attire. An exuberance and confidence that would have alluded many making their international bow, it’s this seamless transition to the big stage which has truly caught prying eyes. It’s proof there are young English defenders that can live up to the swagger of their foreign compatriots, if they are given the platform to do so.

It’s ironic that in John Stones, Keane lined up alongside someone so very similar in his style. Stones appears to be overcoming some of the critics who chased him following his mega-money switch last summer and is now being seen as the modern centre-half England need. The pairing against Lithuania was a foreshadowing of defensive evolution within the national team and it is exciting for supporters to see.

Pass master

The global audience that has seen Keane earn his first two international caps have remarked that his distribution is of a high standard. So it may come as a surprise to compare his passing statistics with that of England compatriot Stones. Squawka statistics show Stones has a 92% pass accuracy in comparison to Keane’s 72%, and nearly double the amount of successful passes (1146 to 670) despite playing almost 1000 less Premier League minutes.

At Burnley, Keane has played 100 long balls in the Premier League, the same number as Chelsea’s David Luiz. It reflects Burnley’s direct style of football and in a rigid 4-4-2 system, Keane’s options are often limited. You can see his excellent technicality if you observe Keane’s games for Burnley, though the Clarets’ brand of football means this won’t be reflected in the statistics. A footballing facade.

Roughing up a diamond

Keane arrived at Burnley during Dyche’s first season in the top flight. He broke into the starting line-up in late November, but found himself displaced by Michael Duff as the season drew to a close. The youngster was getting bullied by opponents and Dyche felt the no-nonsense approach of veteran Duff was what his side needed in that period of time. Keane was merely a boy then.

Credit must be given to Dyche for his development of Keane. The Burnley manager has made him a far more imposing character by improving him physically. He is no longer being bullied by forwards. He is no longer restricted by the physical barriers of the Premier League.

This is one thing Stones probably wishes he could have had; a thorough defensive tuition. Before Guardiola, the £47.5-million-man was given little defensive tutoring by Roberto Martinez. Dyche’s development gives Keane another facet which will be invaluable to him later in his career. Stones, meanwhile, will have to learn many of the defensive arts over time. Given that Guardiola prefers the technical side of his defenders, it may be a slow process.

Potential suitors

His best bet would appear to be Liverpool. Joel Matip aside, Jurgen Klopp’s central defensive options are questionable at present. He fits Klopp’s mantra of not being the finished article and the German could very much enhance Keane’s strong foundations.

Manchester City have also been linked with his services. Reigniting that partnership with Stones could be exciting, but there is risk of rotation under Guardiola.

Potential fee

Various polls on social media indicate he is valued at above £30 million by many Burnley supporters. However with only a year left on his contract, a fee in this region would be unlikely. Though a sizable fee should still be expected, given the lengthy queue of his suitors.

Regardless, the Clarets should enjoy a mouthwatering profit from their £2 million investment and Michael Keane should hopefully go on to bigger and better things in the future.

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