Arsenal were long-time suitors, but Blackburn Rovers moved into pole position and thought they had broken the deal. Keane also agreed to move on with Rovers boss Kenny Dalglish, prompting an angry response from the Scot, considering Alex Ferguson’s 11th-hour attempts to enter the hunt.
“I agreed to the deal and shook hands with him,” the man later recalled. “I returned to Cork and, on Sunday morning, I woke up and I received a phone-call from Sir Alex at my house in Cork, and he said: Will you come and meet with me tomorrow for interviews. I said look, I shook Blackburn’s hand and he said don’t worry! Kenny was smoking! “
The Russian manager decided to win this particular transfer war with Dalglish’s old adversary, the Liverpool legend.
“I can’t lose this player,” Ferguson told Forest boss Frank Clark, who replaced the legendary Clough at the end of the season. “You know how much I’ve missed myself for ages.”
It could well be between those moments. Blackburn had already peppered the unit with the signing of super-striker Alan Shearer and this player was equally capable of dominating the Premier League.