Aston Villa will wave goodbye to Robbie Keane after Saturday’s clash with Wigan but could be first in line should the Irishman fancy a return to the Premier League.
The influential Irishman ends his loan spell in the Midlands after the trip to the DW Stadium and will jet back to club LA Galaxy.
Manager Alex McLeish attempted to extend Keane’s stay at Villa Park but was rebuffed although the 31-year-old has not ruled out the possibility of coming back to England at some stage after admitting that he has enjoyed his recent spell.
“There’s been talk about me staying on at Villa but LA Galaxy are my parent club and I have to respect them,” he said. “I’ve enjoyed my spell here at Villa. It’s a great club but it was my choice to go to the States.
“When I go back to LA, it could be completely different. At this moment in time, I can’t tell what will happen. It’s a case of watch this space. But people have seen over the years how quickly I leave if I don’t think I fit in.”
The much-travelled striker has already had a big impact at Villa but is hoping to have a memorable farewell by helping his side see off struggling Wigan.
Keane has bagged three goals in six games including a memorable double against former side Wolves at Molineux in a 3-2 win to ease any relegation fears that were starting to creep in.
But since the triumph over their now managerless rivals, Villa have failed to win and find themselves in 15th place and once again nervously looking over their shoulder.
What’s worse is that Roberto Martinez’s basement boys, who have struggled all season, come into the game full of confidence after a crucial win over relegation rivals Bolton last time out.
While Villa will look to Keane to inspire them to victory, his team-mates believe he has already done an impressive job and will leave a lasting legacy once he has gone.
Ciaran Clark said: “He started off brilliantly by scoring two goals on his first start. The young lads all took note and looked up to him, especially the forward players.
“He’s been at the top for so long, he’s been around and played at various different clubs and he knows what it takes to play at that level.
“All you’ve got to do is watch him play and listen to what he has to say. He’s top drawer, he’s 100% all the time. He demands nothing less than 100% and that’s the way it should be.”
Carlos Cuellar also praised Keane for his contribution and said that Villa should focus more on what he has produced rather than worry about his departure.
“We need to say to him ‘thank-you for your performances’,” he said,
“It is really sad to lose him because he is playing so well and he has been very important for us. But we will try to win for him as well as for ourselves.
“It has been good because he is an experienced player with good technique and you really have to concentrate to play against him,” added Cuellar.
“It makes you up your performance. He is very clever and he is a great finisher too. He has been a big help for us.
“If we had a choice we would prefer him to stay rather than go back but we have got players who can come in and step up.”