Rafa: We had to cut our losses on Keane
Liverpool manager Rafael Benitez has claimed he had no option but to sell Robbie Keane back to Tottenham.
The Spaniard has been criticised for not giving the Irish striker enough chances to prove himself, and for not lining up a replacement when Keane returned to Spurs on transfer deadline day after a disappointing six months at Anfield.
But Benitez believes that if Liverpool had not ''cut their loses'' this week it could have be a far worse situation for club and player at the end of the season.
By then, with Keane almost 29, Benitez believes that having moved to Liverpool for up to £20m, his transfer value could have plunged to below £10m.
Liverpool and Benitez contest the transfer fee figures that have been claimed from the London end of the deal, insisting that Spurs could end up paying more than £16m.
And they also claim that Spurs were so keen for the move to go through that they offered Gareth Bale, David Bentley and Jermaine Jenas in the negotiations - but not Aaron Lennon, which would have persuaded Benitez to sell earlier.
And as he prepared his side for the FA Cup fourth round replay at Everton, Benitez said: ''He is a very good player. But we had to decide quickly, clearly with someone his age it was a situation that could not be allowed to drag on. And doing it now, in terms of business, it was better.
''I am hearing figures, and they are not true. Depending on the progress of Spurs it (the loss to us on the original deal) could be about £3m.
''We had to do it now. Later would have been worse for him and worse for us.'' He added: ''If you know something is not working you must find a solution right now.
''Robbie was a very good professional, he was working hard and we didn't have any problems with him in the dressing room. But in the end we had to decide what was the best for the club and the best for him. We had to do it right now, and that was possible because Spurs wanted him.
''They were asking, and pushing because they are in a bad position and they believe Robbie can be a fantastic player for them.''
Benitez claims that football mathematics meant Keane had to go. He said: ''He is 28, and if he was not playing the situation and the fee in the summer could have been worse.''
Benitez argued that Keane did have enough chances to prove himself, saying: ''He has played a lot of games, people talk of the amount of substitutions but he started over 20 games for us this season. Clearly he was not playing at the level he can. You can keep talking and talking, but it is on the pitch that you have to show your quality.
''In the end we were talking about him before and after every game.''
Benitez added: ''Liverpool is a different type of club, the expectation on him was high and everyone was talking about a partnership with Torres, maybe he had more pressure and it was more difficult for him to perform at the level he can achieve.
''We needed to cut our losses because it would be harder in the future if this situation had continued. I believe he was treated properly. The relationship was good between him and me. The last day he was there in the dressing room with me and the kit man after everyone had gone, the relationship was fine.''
Meanwhile, speaking for the first time about the deal, Keane told Spurs' website: ''It was a difficult time for me at Liverpool, but there's no point in dwelling on it.
''I am extremely excited about this new chapter in my career, even though it doesn't feel as if the previous chapter really ended.
''Now I have the chance to work with a fantastic manager in Harry Redknapp, who has done a great job since he came in, so I am lucky to be getting this exciting opportunity.''
After his experiences on Merseyside, Keane is pleased to be returning to a club where he is loved by the fans and, critically, virtually guaranteed a regular starting berth.
''Coming back to Spurs was an easy decision to make because this is my home,'' he added.
''It's funny how football works sometimes and situations turn around very quickly, but I can assure fans I will be giving my all to make sure this club stays in the Premier League.
''I'm delighted to be back at a club I have very strong feelings from having previously spent six wonderful years here.
''It would have been difficult for me to have gone anywhere else while a club I have such strong feelings for has this fight on its hands.''