Socceroos great Mark Viduka felt a “sulking” Lucas Neill tried to undermine him throughout Australia’s disastrous 2007 Asian Cup campaign.
Viduka captained the Socceroos in their first Asian Cup, which they entered with high expectations after the 2006 World Cup but exited meekly in the quarter-finals.
Viduka, who rarely speaks in the media, quit international football after the tournament and highlighted Neill’s “sulking” over missing out on the captaincy under Graham Arnold as a factor that disrupted Socceroos camp.
“I think Lucas Neill at that stage came to that Asian Cup not in a good state of mind because of the fact that Graham Arnold had offered him the captaincy because he wasn’t sure whether I was going to come to the Asian Cup or not,” Viduka told ESPN.
“Then once I was at the Asian Cup, either (Arnold) wasn’t brave enough to tell me that I wasn’t captain anymore or whatever, and I felt that Lucas Neill was sulking that whole Asian Cup — through the pre-season, through the preparations for it and through the Asian Cup, and it affected other players.
“I felt Lucas tried to undermine me. I think his priority was to be captain — more because of his other activities off the pitch rather actually than on the pitch stuff. That’s my opinion.”
Mark Viduka at the 2007 Asian Cup.Source:News Limited
Viduka said some of his younger teammates’ approach to national team football had left him disillusioned.
“I think some people came to that Asian Cup thinking more about themselves than they did about the national team,” Viduka said.
“Why? Because people who value themselves very highly and think more about their television rights and deals and all that than actually playing for their country. That was the main reason I stopped playing for the national team.
“My problem was that my generation of players that I grew up with were a different breed to the newer generation, and to be the honest, I wasn’t a big fan of the newer generation of players.
“A lot of them were more interested in how many deals they were having on the side, through sponsorship and getting their heads on the television and things like that, than actually playing for the national team.”
Viduka said he didn’t have any issues with Arnold, who has since worked his way back to the Socceroos head coach position.
Lucas Neill has some explaining to do.Source:News Limited
“Hopefully he’s learnt a lot from the days of when he coached the national team at the Asian Cup — especially man management,” he said.
When looking at Australian football, Viduka said he believed there was “a big gap in terms of player development” compared to his time in the game, especially since the formation of the A-League.
He also lamented the closure of the FFA Centre of Excellence at the AIS in 2017.
“There’s something missing with the player development,” he said. “I think that when they did the A-League, they concentrated more on getting the league set up but this junior system that actually developed players, I don’t think they paid enough attention to.”
Viduka said he never even coveted the captaincy — but accepted the honour ahead of close friend Craig Moore because former coach Guus Hiddink asked him to take up the role.
“Guus came to me, and he said, ‘Look, I’d like you to be captain [permanently],’” Viduka said.
“It’s a huge honour, and I’m not one of the guys whose dream is about being captain of anything, really.
“[Craig Moore] would have been the better person to do it, playing at the back and all that. But Guus had to make the call because he didn’t know if [Moore’s] injury would come good. I felt bad because he’s a good mate.
“It was actually a bit of a burden to me, but I’d never knock it back.”
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