Aussie great Viduka almost joined Milan, held Man Utd talks

Regarded as one of Australia's all-time greats, Viduka was a dominant force during his time with Dinamo Zagreb, Celtic, Leeds, Middlesbrough and Newcastle United.

Former Australia captain Mark Viduka spent four years with Leeds United.   -  Getty Images

Mark Viduka revealed Leeds United blocked him from joining AC Milan in a £38 million transfer in 2001, while the Australian great also held talks with Manchester United.

Regarded as one of Australia's all-time greats, Viduka was a dominant force during his time with Dinamo Zagreb, Celtic, Leeds, Middlesbrough and Newcastle United.

READ | Willian says Chelsea renewal 'very difficult' amid exit talk

Viduka spent four years with Leeds and helped the Premier League club reach the 2001 Champions League semifinals, prompting interest from across Europe.

Serie A powerhouse Milan wanted Viduka but Leeds – eventually crippled by financial issues – prevented the former Socceroos captain from moving to San Siro.

"I had the chance to join AC Milan at the end of the 2001 season, after we made the Champions League semi-final," the 44-year-old told ESPN.

"[Leeds] were negotiating with Milan and wanted £38m. I was friends with [Milan star] Zvonimir Boban at the time, and we were negotiating terms through him. In the end, [Milan] offer the £38m, and Leeds didn't want to sell. And that was that.

"I was a huge AC Milan fan. As a kid, I grew up watching [Marco] van Basten, [Frank] Rijkaard and [Ruud] Gullit ... They were my favourite team. It just wasn't to be."

United – managed by Alex Ferguson at the time – was also an admirer and tried to lure Viduka to Old Trafford, however, the 43-time Australia international opted to stay at Leeds.

Detailing a meeting with music icon Elton John, Viduka said: "I was in Manchester, and my agent at the time also had a lot to do with Elton John.

"He said stay for the night and come to the show. He had backstage passes, and I'd get the chance to meet the man for myself. It was an offer I couldn't refuse.

"So I'm there with Jacob Burns, my Leeds team-mate and fellow Aussie, as we got ushered into his dressing room. As we enter, Elton swings around on a swivel chair and says, 'Mark Viduka, you're from Melbourne. I love that place!'

READ | Liverpool asked to explain furlough decision by supporters' group

"I was nervous, so I babbled on about my meeting with the Red Devils that day and a possible move. Instead of going to our seats to watch the concert, Elton gets us to watch it at the side of the stage. About three songs in, he says, 'I want to dedicate this next one to my good friend Mark, who is in Manchester today to make a big decision.'

"I'm thinking: 'S***, please don't say anymore!' Thank God he didn't. I didn't sign for Man United. I think I loved living in Leeds too much at the time."

Support Sportstar


Dear Reader,

Support our journalism — where text and pictures intermingle so seamlessly — and help us scale up your experience as the world changes around us. Your contribution is vital to our brand of uninfluenced, boots-on-the-ground reportage that’s worth your while. Clickbait sensationalism is not for us, but editorial independence is — we owe it to you.

  Dugout videos