LA Galaxy striker Robbie Keane says he has ‘dreaded’ the day he would retire from international football, but admits it’s the right time for him to do so.
Keane, 36, has represented his earned 145 caps from his country since making his senior debut in 1998, scoring an incredible 67 goals during that time to become his nation’s all-time leading goalscorer. His closest competitor, Niall Quinn, has 21 goals.
Incredibly, Keane’s goalscoring tally for Ireland puts him ahead of the likes of Lionel Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo and Zlatan Ibrahimovic for goals scored for their country, while it also ranks him as the 13th-most prolific goalscorer at international level of all-time.
After declaring his intent to hang up his Ireland boots last Thursday, Keane admits the support he has received has been overwhelming.
“It’s been an emotional week. It’s been surreal. I’ve dreaded this day for a long time [but] it’s the right time for me,” said Keane.
“To the fans, it’s been an incredible journey and something I’ll never forget. Wednesday night will be very emotional.
“The defining moment of my career was being given the Ireland captain’s armband at the age of 26. It was a big moment for me.
“I’ve had so many wonderful memories, but it’s the right time. I’ve played for 18 years. You can’t please everybody. All I ever wanted was to do my best for my country. I think I did okay.”
Keane played at three major tournaments for his country, in the 2002 World Cup, Euro 2012 and Euro 2016, scoring three times during his only experience of the World Cup in Japan and South Korea.
Among those three goals was a late equaliser against Germany to help his side progress to the knockout phase of the competition – a feeling which he believes was topped by his first ever goal against Malta.
“I’ve played for many teams. I’ve worn many different jerseys. The Irish jersey has always been the best fit. It’s been special,” he added.
“The Germany goal will always stand out for me but nothing will ever beat my first goal for Ireland against Malta.
“I’m very grateful to be able to say goodbye. The fans have been fantastic. To go out and say thank you to the fans on Wednesday will be a special moment. I’m going to take it all in.”