Mark Viduka has admitted for the first time that he held talks over a secret move from Leeds to Manchester United in the early 2000s – and that Elton John almost told a packed stadium about his transfer talks.
Australia striker Viduka joined Leeds in a bargain £6m transfer from Celtic in summer 2000 – and went on to play a leading role in David O’Leary’s side as they reached the semi-finals of both the UEFA Cup (now the Europa League) and the Champions League.
As a regular in the side and still revered to this day for his four-goal display that saw Leeds beat Liverpool in a famous match, and went on to score 72 goals in 166 appearances for the club.
However, it has now been revealed for the first time that Viduka could have departed Elland Road the season prior, having held talks with Sir Alex Ferguson about a potential move that would have had shades of Eric Cantona’s move across the Pennines more than a decade earlier.
As it goes, Viduka ended up staying at Leeds – the player citing his love for the club as a prime reason – but he’s admitted a chance meeting with Elton John almost saw the secret transfer talks blown wide open.
“I was in Manchester and my agent at the time also had a lot to do with Elton John,” Viduka told ESPN.
“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.”
Viduka then admitted that nerves got the better of him and he told former Watford chairman John – real name Reg Dwight – about his talks with Ferguson – and how he then feared the singer was about to tell a packed stadium.
“So I’m there with Jacob Burns, my Leeds teammate and fellow Aussie, as we got ushered into his dressing room,” said Viduka.
“As we enter Elton swings are on a swivel chair and says: ‘Mark Viduka, you’re from Melbourne – I love that place!’
“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 any more!’
“Thank God he didn’t. I didn’t sign for Man United – I think I loved living in Leeds too much at the time.”
After leaving Leeds for Teesside a year later, Viduka also went on to play for Newcastle and left the Premier League with an overall record with 121 goals in 309 games.