By Jason Moore
Photos: H. Carter
YOU are going to see plenty of him on Sky Television over the next eight months and soon he could be your neighbour in Majorca.
Richard Keys, the face of live football on British television, has joined our league in Majorca and has become a major fan buying a power-boat and searching for a home here. But this afternoon he will be anchoring the curtain raiser of the English football season, the Community Shield clash from Cardiff between Arsenal and Manchester United. But yesterday in Majorca he took time out to talk about two of his greatest loves - football and Majorca. For the first time in almost a decade Manchester United this afternoon will be without David Beckham, who occupies a new role in Spain. “David Beckham is the best freekick taker in the world. He is an exceptional player but the downside to all this is all the baggage which goes with him (the star status, star wife and star contracts). Manchester United are just a football club again,” said Keys. The Sky Sports presenter, who has been anchoring live football for 12 years, said that Becks faced a major test in Spain and only time would tell whether or not he was able to compete with the best on the planet.

Will United suffer without Becks? “You've got to remember that Beckham didn't play for much of last season and they still went on to win the league and also beat Real Madrid and came a whisker away from knocking the Spaniards out of the Champions League.” But Keys does believes that Beckham did give that added attraction among those who followed football more for star status than actually for the game itself. As regards the England skipper's old club. Keys reckons that they are the favourites to win the league but it is not cut and dried. “There is Newcastle...who've got a great team and some great young players. Also, Sir Bob (Robson, the manager) is a great manager. I would say that all the teams that finished in the top five last season will be up there this season as well. I think a lot of people would love to see Newcastle win the league because of Sir Bob.” Keys said that it may be too early for Chelsea whose new Russian owner has splashed out 54 million pounds on new players and is still chasing more including Real Mallorca's star striker Samuel Eto'o. He said that Liverpool were still missing something even though they had one of the biggest squads in the Premier League. “We can look forward to an exciting Premier League again, and Sky Sports will be there,” said Keys.
Sky has recently paid in excess of one billion pounds for the rights for the Premier League from 2004 onwards, a deal some commentators say is bad for football but Keys disagrees. “This money will allow many clubs to survive by giving them a major cash injection. As you know many teams are struggling financially.” “I would just like to say that we do not determine when or where matches are played. If Liverpool v. Manchester United is played in the morning it's not because of us it's because the police have decided that this is a more appropriate time. I think the Premier league has negotiated a very good deal which will be good for football.” Keys is proud of the football coverage on Sky. “I would say that wouldn't I, but I think that we have changed the presentation of football. I think Andy Gray is the best soccer pundit on British television and Martin Tyler is a walking encyclopedia of football. It's a potent team.” Apart from the Premier League and the FA Cup, Sky will soon have the rights for the Champions League and they will also being showing the vital Turkey v. England Euro 2004 qualifier, one of the biggest England matches since the World Cup. Keys says that Sven Eriksson, the England manager, has done a good job but he is convinced that the next manager will be English. He still rates Sir Bobby Robson, who took England to the World Cup semi-finals in 1990. “Robson and one of the newer younger coaches would be an excellent combination.” But away from football, Richard Keys has become a major Majorca fan although it has still not reached the heights of his beloved Coventry (who will be making a quick return to the Premier League!). He has a new boat and is looking for a home. “Malcolm (Andrews) is taking care of this venture. He is my top player in Majorca!” Finally, Richard Keys says his farewells, takes a final look at his new boat and heads to Palma airport to board a flight to Cardiff. “But I will be back next week,” he says.

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