Leeds United: Elland Road cult hero countdown - 9

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We continue our countdown of Elland Road cult heroes. Who is in at number 9?

There are not many footballers who would be happy to have their career at a club defined a by a single goal.

Dominic Matteo heads home against AC Milan in the San Marino.

Dominic Matteo heads home against AC Milan in the San Marino.

When that goal came at the San Siro against AC Milan in the Champions League though, you’d understand why Dominic Matteo might not mind much.

Almost 15 years since that famous night at one of Europe’s most famous stadiums, Leeds United fans still sing about Matteo’s goal that gave the Whites a valuable draw. His leaping near post header was enough to ensure Leeds qualified for the knockout stages of the competition.

Matteo joined Leeds after beginning his career at Liverpool.

He was a clearly talented defender, elegant on the ball and brought up in the Liverpool way.

His father had wanted him to play like Cesare Maldini, the greatest defender of his generation, and while Matteo never hit those heights, he carved out a long career at the top level of the game.

It took his move to Leeds to play regularly. Partnering the likes of Rio Ferdinand and Lucas Radebe in defence, Matteo was part of one of the most exciting Leeds teams of a generation.

The heroics in the San Siro were only a snippet of the exceptional success Leeds would have in the 2000/01 season, as they reached the semi-final of Europe’s elite club competition.

While Leeds were eventually knocked out by Valencia, it was an exceptional achievement for an unfancied and young side.

There was reason to believe it could only get better from there for the Whites.

For Matteo, it seemed as though he had joined a club on the up, one that had already embraced him.

It got better for him as an individual, as Matteo was handed the captaincy after Ferdinand left in 2002.

However, that would be the point at which Leeds’s collapse began, and Matteo could not stop the club from hurtling towards relegation.

Matteo became embedded in the city after his slightly premature retirement from football as a result of persistent injuries. He soon took on a role as a club ambassador and owned the local Rock Bar until recently.

That is not to say his most important achievement for the city did not even happen in this country - even 15 years on, there’s always an urge for Leeds fans to remember Dom Matteo, that great goal and the San Siro.

Leeds United director of football Victor Orta. PIC: Jonathan Gawthorpe

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