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Monday, 07 July 2008

Harry Kewell's necessary new start

Harry Kewell arrived in England 13 years ago as a 17-year-old and quickly broke into Leeds first team. After five years with Leeds Kewell was a star, a Champions League semi-finalist in a talented team; but the club finances were overstretched and by 2003 the squad was being sold to stave off financial oblivion. Kewell was considered to be worth over £20m in 2001 - yet Liverpool managed to get him for £5m in total (much of which went in fees rather than to Leeds) in 2003.

But his time at Liverpool has been withered by perpetual injury.

Perhaps 2006/7 epitomises Kewell's Liverpool career; first game of the season on 5 May, a goal in his second game against Charlton - followed by playing in the European Cup Final against Milan. Rafa Benitez always knew he could trust Kewell in the big games and picked him for every show piece.

108 starts and 30 substitute appearances for Liverpool in 5 seasons shows a player unable to play much more than 20 games a season - but who is subsequently trusted for the big games. He played in both European Cup finals under Benitez (2005 and 2007, both against Milan), the 2006 FA Cup Final (against West Ham) and the 2005 League Cup Final (against Chelsea). Kewell has played a part in the four trophy games of Benitez's reign to date; as well as playing a full part in the 2006 World Cup after a smart recovery after another curtailed club season.

That Galatasary have signed him on a free seems reasonable until you recall the tragic deaths of Leeds fans at the time of an away Euro match against Gala. You get a feeling for how long ago this was when you realise that Peter Ridsdale was lionised for his statemanlike handling of the tragedy that night. The rights and wrongs of the situation are difficult to gauge - but other tragedies have not lead to a transfer embargo.

That Kewell has joined such a good club is a bit more difficult to fathom. Gala are regular European protaganists with a great fan base and atmosphere - it seems debateable that Kewell will impress anyone unless he is prepared to play through pain. And regardless of any other consideration that is the hard truth. Kewell is 30 in September and his body will start to let him down more - not less - often.

In the last two seasons Kewell has managed 18 games for LIverpool and Australia; and in the highly charged atmosphere of Turkish football he will be expected to earn his marquee wages. Not sure if a move to a more forgiving league may have been a more logical step, say France, Switzerland or Belgium - but I would expect in another year Kewell will be linked quite heavily with a retirement plan move to Qatar, Russia, USA or even Australia.

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