It's not difficult to understand why Robbie Keane is regarded as one of the greatest players in MLS history.
Ireland's all-time leading scorer netted 92 goals and made 51 assists in his five-year Stateside spell, and announced last night that he will depart LA Galaxy with a heartfelt open letter to the club's fans.
Regardless of the quality - or lack thereof - within American football, Keane's application where others have retreated into semi-retired mode saw him adored league-wide. He claims he's as fit as ever, and is seeking one more challenge in professional football before hanging up his boots, presumably to take up coaching.
RTÉ's Morning Ireland believed Keane to be now retired when discussing his potential options earlier today, but the Talalght man has confirmed himself that he'll continue playing - with rumours rife overnight that he's set for a sensational move home to the League of Ireland. We've looked at the options, and picked his four most likely destinations in descending order.
4) Shamrock Rovers
Lets get this out of the way: We understand Robbie Keane won't be joining Shamrock Rovers, or moving to the League of Ireland. A fortnight ago, when Keane's future at LA came into doubt, some bookmakers offered odds as low as 5/6 for Keano to return to Tallaght and join Shamrock Rovers. He has, in the past, expressed an interest in following his old mate Damien Duff and finishing his career back home.
With Rovers set to announce some 'big signings' at a media event this morning, the rumour mill is in full swing that one of them may be Keane, even in the role of player-manager.
Robbie Keane announces he is leaving @LAGalaxy hours before @ShamrockRovers announce new signings. Coincidence? #greatestleagueintheworld
— Dan Pope (@danpope) November 18, 2016
However, Keane's 'one last major challenge' in football will not be to lead his actual boyhood club to the top of the Airtricity League table next season.
3) MK Dons
With whispers that Keane's also-departing LA teammate Steven Gerrard is set to become manager at MK Dons, it's been suggested that Keane might follow him, perhaps in the role of player-coach.
Steven Gerrard and Robbie Keane to become joint management of MK Dons......
— JC (@jc__19) November 18, 2016
It's no secret that the former Liverpool duo are close friends, regularly socialising together after Galaxy's away trips across America. Could a couple of pints of Guinness in an Irish bar in Portland have birthed a few notions? It's possible, but the move seems unlikely to transpire.
It's a potential Robbie move based on a rumour about Steven Gerrard, first and foremost. Gerrard has been contacted by the Buckinghamshire about their vacant managerial position, but nothing has come of it so far. Gerrard may yet hold out for a coaching role at Anfield, and reports this morning suggest the FA may even appoint him in an advisory role. It's clear he's weighing up his options, regardless, which would indicate he won't be taking the reins at Milton Keynes, who will appoint a new manager in the coming days.
2) Vancouver Whitecaps
Managed by Keane's friend and former Wolves teammate Carl Robinson, the Whitecaps are crying out for a proven goalscorer; where five of their players fired more than five goals in the league last season, just one repeated the feat this time around (as per MLSSoccer.com).
'Caps fans have been shouting for a major signing for the past few seasons, and Keane - even with his high salary - would be attainable for the financially prudent Canadian club.
The one downside would be BC Place's artificial surface - hardly conducive to preserving the legs of a 36-year-old - but in Robinson, the Vancouver franchise has a manager who both knows Keane personally and has played MLS himself. Plus, Keane had nothing but nice things to say about the surface after Galaxy's trip north last year.
A fifth country in a storied career, and a swan-song in a city as beautiful as Vancouver, would seem a fitting end for Keano, but we're only hypothesising for now.
1) Colorado Rapids
Speaking after finding himself benched for Galaxy's penalty shootout defeat at the MLS club known as Kevin Doyle's Colorado Rapids two weeks ago, Keane indicated that were he to depart Los Angeles, he'd likely remain in MLS. He told reporters:
I’ll be playing next year, somewhere. Whether that’s here or somewhere else I’ll 100% be playing in the league.
While he likely intended 'here' to mean Galaxy, the Rapids seem like Keane's most likely destination. For starters, on a personal and family level, he could continue living in Los Angeles, and even commute with LA-based Colorado star Jermaine Jones.
The Mile High club's manager, Pablo Mastroeni, spoke before the Rapids' MLS Cup victory about cultivating a player-led culture at the club. Few if any players available to Colorado would better fit the bill than Robbie Keane, who's become an icon to both MLS fans and the league's younger players.
Plus, provided they return next season, Keane would be joining former Ireland teammates Kevin Doyle and Sean St. Ledger on the Front Range. Doyle recently spoke to The Balls.ie Football Show about how much he's enjoying life in Colorado (and finally put to rest those pesky Swift Ledger rumours). If his phone rings this week, his adopted city and current club will likely receive a glowing recommendation, as will Keane himself if either St. Ledger or Doyle are asked by their manager to assess the potential recruitment of their former international captain.