Mark Viduka has told ESPN that Leeds United blocked his dream move to AC Milan at the end of the 2000-01 season for a whopping £38million – despite initially stating that the Whites were happy to accept offers in that region.
Viduka, now 44, joined Leeds in the summer of 2000 from Celtic and went on to become an icon at Elland Road – netting an enormous 72 goals in 166 appearances for the Whites, including his famous four against Liverpool.
At the end of his first season at Elland Road, Viduka ended with stats of 17 in 34 Premier League outings – and 22 in total. It was the season in which Leeds reached the Champions League semi-final, after playing Milan in the first group stage.
Speaking to ESPN, Viduka revealed at the end of the campaign, Milan wanted to lure Viduka to Serie A. He claimed Leeds wanted £38million for his services but when Milan offered that sum, Leeds rejected a move.
“I had the chance to join AC Milan at the end of the 2001 season, after we made the Champions League semifinal,” Viduka said. “[Leeds] were negotiating with Milan and wanted £38 million.
“I was friends with [Milan star] Zvonimir Boban at the time, and we were negotiating terms through him. In the end, [Milan] offer the £38 million, 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.”
Instead, Viduka remained at Elland Road for another three years – becoming an icon with the Yorkshire side. However, he was one of many examples that were sold for a cut-price figure when the club went into financial ruin under Peter Ridsdale.
Viduka joined Middlesbrough for about £6million, joining the likes of Alan Smith, Harry Kewell, Paul Robinson and more to leave after relegation to the Championship. Leeds are yet to return to the Premier League, 16 years later.