Steven Gerrard has backed LA Galaxy team-mate Robbie Keane to play a key role at Euro 2016 for Ireland - and revealed his regret at the striker's "clash" with Rafel Benitez that cut short his Liverpool career.
Keane moved to Merseyside in the summer of 2008 from Tottenham, but he was back with the London club just six months later after a frustrating period in which Benitez never gave him a consistent run of games.
Speaking to Seán O’Rourke on RTÉ Radio 1, Gerrard revealed that the taciturn Spaniard had tried to change Keane's game, and cracks in their relationship subsequently opened that never healed.
"Robbie came and worked hard and scored some important goals for us but these things happen in football," the midfielder said.
"I think there was a bit of a clash with Rafa Benitez. I wanted him to stay around for a long time. I liked playing with him and was sad to see him go.
"Rafa Benitez was maybe trying to change the way Robbie played. For me, the reason we bought Robbie Keane was for him to play off a front man and to cause damage between defence and midfield and Rafa was trying to change that. I don’t think Robbie was too happy with that.
“We already had a decent connection but it’s certainly got stronger since I’ve come to LA. He’s put his arm around me and helped me settle. He’s a legend at Galaxy, he’s scoring heavily week in week out. I know how popular he is here in Ireland and how big he was in the Premier League and he’s taken that over to LA and the MLS."
"Roy Keane is one of my favourite players, I used to love playing against him. I've got nothing but respect for the guy."
Gerrard talked up Ireland record goalscorer's importance to Irish hopes in France - both on and off the pitch. “I’d be stunned if he's not in the squad. Martin O’Neill will take him for his experience. He’s capable of scoring big goals at big moments and those players are very hard to come by.
"I know he hasn't played as much in the last couple of qualifiers and the play-offs, but Martin’s had him on the bench and Robbie does a terrific job on the pitch but also off it as so I'm sure he'll want him around.
“But I know Robbie well enough to know he won't be happy being a squad player. He’ll want to push to get playing time."
Gerrard - in Dublin to promote his latest biography, My Story - had previously admitted Manchester United were the one group of players he never exchanged shirts with because of the intense rivalry between the two clubs, but shared his admiration for current Ireland number two Roy Keane.
"Roy Keane is one of my favourite players, I used to love playing against him. I've got nothing but respect for the guy and for the player, but I've been a Liverpool fan since the day I was born. There's no need for me to have a United shirt in my house."
In the RTÉ interview, Gerrard also admitted he will take to the grave the low of his costly slip against Chelsea when Liverpool were within reach of the title, but tipped Jurgen Klopp's current crop to launch a genuine bid for an elusive Premier League crown this season.
The 35-year-old is currently back training with the Reds to maintain his fitness during the post-season break for Major League Soccer and is bullish about their hopes: "If Liverpool keep everyone fit they'll certainly get involved in the title race. They need just to keep each game as it comes and try and win as many as they can."