Lucas Neill captained his country, played at two World Cup finals and made more than 400 appearances in English football. But his career will, in many minds, always be defined by his decision to eschew a 2007 transfer to Liverpool and instead join West Ham on a reported weekly salary of £72,000. The decision seemed to epitomise an era when footballers’ financial considerations came before footballing interests.
Neill had made his way in English football with Millwall where he was a young teammate of his compatriot and great friend, Tim Cahill. His Premier League reputation was forged as a no-nonsense defender with Blackburn in a six-year spell at Ewood Park, before the move to London came.
Thirty-two months later Neill found himself on Merseyside after all. Released from his onerous West Ham contract he was drafted in to Everton as a free agent following early-season injury to Phil Neville. He deputised ably at right back and centre-half in a busy autumn of 2009. But with the Everton captain’s return and cash in short supply, when Galatasaray made a £700,000 bid for Neill in the following January’s transfer window, Everton accepted and his Goodison career came to an end after just one dozen starts.