When speaking now, Roy Keane often downplays just how good of a footballer he was. He sums up his contribution to the team as getting the ball and passing it to the better players, but that does not do him justice.
In his prime, Keane was one of the best midfielders in the world. His ability to control the game with his tackling and passing was unmatched, and that is without even mentioning the mentality he demanded from those around him in every single game. People also often forget how much he contributed in forward areas earlier in his career.
Any of his teammates will tell you just how much of an influence he had on whatever team he was part of, both at club and international level. For some, it took sharing a dressing room with the Irishman to fully appreciate what he brought to the table.
Jordi Cruyff took time to be convinced of Roy Keane talents
Jordi Cruyff came from a very specific school of footballing thought, having started out at the academy at Ajax before joining the youth setup at Barcelona. Of course, his father was also Johann Cruyff, the man who completely changed the way the game is played during his time as a player and then manager.
As a result, the younger Cruyff struggled to understand the obsession with Roy Keane when he first moved to Manchester United.
In an interview with The Telegraph, he revealed that he was confused why a tackle from the midfielder would get a larger ovation than a Ryan Giggs dribble at Old Trafford. However, it did not take him all that long to come around to a new way of thinking.
In Spain, if you had a Roy Keane tackle or a Ryan Giggs dribble, people appreciated the tackle, but the dribble, people would get on their feet for that. But in England, it was the opposite. They liked the dribble, but the tackle, they would be shouting: ‘Wow, come on!’
I remember that because I was so surprised and would be thinking: ‘Didn’t you see this dribble? Come on, that was from another planet’. That was the difference.
Now, I like Roy Keane and I would love to have this guy in my team. If he could let you fly a few metres but also touch the ball . . . perfect. Some things changed in my football mentality. You think about the beauty, romance, the dribble.
But if you add the toughness and winning mentality, then you have the mix.
Cruyff spent four seasons as a Manchester United player, although he could never quite live up to the billing that came with that famous surname. At least he quickly learned the value of Roy Keane during his time in the Premier League.
While his playing career did not reach the heights he would have hoped for, he has since carved a successful role at board level and currently acts as the sporting director at Barcelona.