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Football: Wolves will sell Robbie.

WOLVES have reluctantly admitted it is only a matter of time before they have to cash in on teenage strike sensation Robbie Keane.

John Richards, former Wolves favourite and now managing director at Molineux, claims virtually every Premiership club would be chasing the Irish ace if he became available.

Arsenal, today's visitors to Molineux in the FA Cup fourth round, would almost certainly lead the stampede for his signature.

Manchester United boss Alex Ferguson is another known admirer of the young Republic of Ireland striker from Dublin.

Richards confirmed: "Arsene Wengr's Highbury assistant Pat Rice has already been here so many times to watch Robbie. So have most other Premiership scouts.

"They would not be doing their jobs properly if they were not aware of Robbie's class and potential.

"We are not daft . . . and neither are our fans. We all know people are sniffing around.

"We have never put a valuation on Robbie because we don't want him to go anywhere."

Wolves boss Colin Lee emphasised that point in midweek, when he claimed: "A figure of pounds 5million wouldn't buy one of Robbie's arms, let alone his legs."

Still, Richards admitted: "It is inevitable he will leave Wolves simply because of the power that lies with the players and their agents these days.

"Players are always being advised not to extend contracts - and even when they are under contract they tend to get their own way."

Keane, 18, has scored 13 goals this season and will be looking to add to his tally against Cup-holders Arsenal.

Richards knows even if he put a pounds 10 million price tag on Keane there would still be willing takers.

The young hotshot still has three years left on his Molineux contract.

But Richards points out: "When players are walking out or demanding moves from top Premiership clubs like Aston Villa and Liverpool, then it stands to sense that Robbie might leave us before his contract runs out.

"I have to be aware that three years down the line he can walk out.

"Current laws mean we would be entitled to a compensation fee because he will still be less than 24.

"But my big worry is that laws are bound to change, and we could lose him for nothing if we wait that long.

"It would be dangerous to let his contract run out, knowing we could lose pounds 10million.

Richards added: "We are receiving inquiries for Robbie all the time. I am sure he will crop up in conversation again before and after the Arsenal match.

"I think the British transfer market is over-priced. People are paying silly money for fairly ordinary players . . . so imagine what our boy is worth!"
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Title Annotation:Sport
Publication:Sunday Mirror (London, England)
Date:Jan 24, 1999
Words:448
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