Roy Keane epitomized the term ‘no nonsense’ in his illustrious playing career and an iconic Champions League moment perhaps summed it up best.
The midfielder’s legendary leadership saw Manchester United win four Premier League titles, two FA Cups and a famous Champions League triumph in 1999 in a period of total dominance.
His unrivaled determination to win was instrumental in Sir Alex Ferguson’s dominant side as he built one of the greatest sides in history, winning the treble in 1999.
Gary Neville, who was also a big part of that team, has previously said Keane is the greatest captain the Premier League has seen – and few players can dispute that claim.
For some reason, though, there aren’t many players like Keane in today’s game.
Luckily for us, we still see snippets of the big man on TV.
His take on the modern game often angers us, with over-the-top hairstyles, shirt-swapping and celebrations usually bearing the brunt of the iconic Irishman’s wrath.
But as his side take on Diego Simeone’s Atletico Madrid for a place in the Champions League quarter-finals, it’s fair to look back at a moment that sums up Keane’s personality in one word that involved the current manager of ‘Atleti himself.
In the quarter-final second leg against Inter, in which United led 2-0, the Irishman led his team-mates to shake hands with their rivals before kick-off.
But Keane did not shake hands with two opponents – Ronaldo and Simeone.
Why? Because they were retying their socks when Keane joined them and the captain didn’t have time to wait.
He simply ignored their wits and prepared for war that night at the San Siro – Ronaldo, however, received a pat on the back as he walked past him.
In the match, Paul Scholes canceled out Nicola Ventola’s goal which meant United reached the Champions League semi-finals with a 3-1 aggregate win and set up a meeting with Juventus.
United won the competition and completed the treble to seal their greatest season ever.
Keane didn’t feature in the dramatic win over Bayern Munich in the final.
He received a yellow card in the 3-2 semi-final second leg win over Juventus and was sent off with a suspension as a result.
Sir Alex is full of praise for his captain for his display against Juventus.
“It was the most emphatic display of selflessness I have seen on a football pitch,” he wrote in his autobiography.
“Hitting every blade of grass, competing as if he’d rather die of exhaustion than lose, he inspired everything around him.
“I felt such an honor to be associated with such a player.”
Keane, however, was less than impressed with his former manager’s words over the next few years and after his bitter exit from the club in 2005.
Discussing this excerpt from Ferguson’s book, Keane said: ‘Stuff like that almost insults me.
“What am I supposed to do? Give up? Not cover every blade of grass? Not do my best for my teammates? Not do my best for my club?
“I actually take offense when people throw quotes at me like that, like I’m supposed to be honored. It’s like congratulating the postman for delivering your letters. He’s supposed to, isn’t It’s his job.
We have yet to see another player as brilliantly intense as Keane.
Maybe we never will again – so we must cherish these stories forever.