Former Whites boss David O’Leary wasn’t afraid of the transfer market between 1998 and 2002, and though his exuberant spending may have later financially crippled Leeds United, it gave birth to one of the finest players to ever grace Elland Road, Mark Viduka.
Simply put Mark Viduka was one of the best bits of business Leeds United and David O’Leary have done in recent memory. We say that not because he was a particularly cheap player – he arrived for a club record fee £6 million (as per the club’s official site) – rather the Australian was a great bit of transfer wizardry because he was an absolutely sensational player who provided plenty of priceless memories. You know, the kind neutrals tend to remember because they’re actually just very good at kicking a football.
After dominating the Scottish Premiership and scoring 27 goals for Celtic in the single season he played at Parkhead, O’Leary saw fit to release the beast from his Scottish confines onto the poor and unsuspecting Premier League. Alongside a young boy wonder, Alan Smith, Viduka collected 22 goals during his debut campaign, hoisting Leeds United into fourth position and reach the semi-finals of the Champions League. Not to mention the utter madness that unfolded in November 2000 with the forward claiming all four goals in Leeds United’s 4-3 victory over Liverpool at Elland Road.
However, even some of the worst players can have random splurges of genius. It takes real talent to turn up over and over and perform at the highest level, which is exactly what the beast did during the 2001/02 campaign – collecting a cool 16 goals in all competitions, including a winner against the Gunners at their Highbury fortress.
Indeed, to spindle the same sort of footballing magic Viduka managed on such a consistent basis despite Leeds United slowly making their ill-fated descent toward Premier League relegation is truly remarkable, and the 11 League goals he bagged in his final year at Leeds proved to be some of the clubs last in topflight thanks to an ongoing absence.
Following Leeds’ drop, Viduka moved to Middlesbrough where he played a pivotal in their run-in to the 2006 UEFA Cup final, before retiring at Newcastle United.
What a player, what an icon and what a career.
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