Viduka: I was proud to be a Leeds player

'I did my best for four years' By PAUL DEWS MARK VIDUKA today looked back on his Leeds United career and admitted: "I gave it my best shot."

Viduka's tenure officially came to a close yesterday when he finally completed his protracted move to Middlesbrough.

Those close to the 4.5m transfer described it as one of the most complicated deals they have ever been involved in, but after weeks of negotiations the Aussie finally sealed his switch to Teesside.

The signing brought an end to a roller-coaster chapter for Viduka after a four-year stint at Leeds that saw him hit the highs and lows.

He was United's leading scorer in each of his four seasons - he netted 72 goals in 166 appearances - and will rank as the best striker to pull on a white shirt in recent years.

However, he was still vilified by some and Viduka's pride was battered when he was singled out by a minority as one of the major reasons behind United's relegation last term.

Privately he was seething - he was scathing about a "malaise" within the club - but the 28-year-old has now shaken off those feelings.

Relief

"That's the sort of thing that happens when you're involved in a club that's going through that sort of period," Viduka said.

"The thing is for me, I gave my best for the whole four years I've been there - the four years there, I was top goalscorer every year - and those sort of things go out of the window when times are tough.

"But I had a great time at Leeds. I enjoyed my time there and made a lot of friends, and I was proud to be a Leeds player.

"There's an element of relief - there's also an element of disappointment because it was very disappointing that Leeds went down last year and the way that the club has been over the last couple of years.

"But it's good to turn over a new leaf and start afresh, and I think there's no better club for me to do that than Middlesbrough."

Viduka almost joined Boro during the January transfer window, but time ran out on talks at that stage, and the player was keen to stay at Leeds.

He re-opened negotiations with Boro while holidaying in Croatia last month and Teesside chief executive Keith Lamb is delighted to finally get his man.

"This wasn't a soft option for Mark," he said. "It was a decision that took a little bit of time for both of us to reach.

"We talked about it in January but it couldn't happen then for a variety of reasons.

"I think both of us would have liked it to happen then, but when we talked about it more recently, because of Mark's ambition, it was important that I convinced Mark, and Steve McClaren convinced Mark, that this is a club that is going places.

"Similarly, we needed to make sure that Mark was coming here and still had the drive and ambition, and the fact that we're here today is testimony to the fact that we both satisfied each other that we are where we want to be."

Viduka is now setting his sights on helping Boro go the extra yard and is relishing the prospect of a UEFA Cup return.

"I'm very excited," said the Aussie.

"Just going into the dressing room, there are so many international players here and it reminds me of when I came to Leeds. Things were on the up and they were playing in Europe.

"I'm very excited to be part of this for the next three years at least."

paul.dews@ypn.co.uk

MARK VIDUKA FACTFILE

A NEW CHALLENGE

1975: Born Melbourne, Australia, October 9

1994: Makes debut for Melbourne Knights, makes 22 appearances and scores 18 goals.

June - Makes debut for senior Australia side in the 1-0 victory over South Africa in Adelaide.

1995: Moves to Croatia Zagreb, scoring 40 goals in 84 games in three-year spell.

1998: August - Impresses in Zagreb's UEFA Cup exit to Celtic and then expresses an interest in playing in Scotland.

November 20 - 3m fee agreed with Celtic, who apply for a work permit.

December 2 - Agrees four-year contract, stating: "I want to repay the club's faith in me."

December 4 - Celtic announce Viduka has quit the club without kicking a ball after complaining of stress.

December 15 - Croatia Zagreb complain they have not received 3m fee.

1999: January 23 - Viduka arrives back in Glasgow and is paraded for a second time at Parkhead.

February 16 - Finally makes Celtic debut with a goal for the under-21 team as an over-age player in 4-2 win over Motherwell.

March - Accuses people in "high places at Celtic" of "making problems" with the payment of his transfer fee to Zagreb after FIFA announce they will rule on the matter.

April - Long-running dispute between the two clubs is settled amicably without FIFA's intervention.

May 8 - Sent off for spitting at Dunfermline midfielder Mark Millar. Fined two weeks' wages.

May 14 - Admitted he was on the verge of quitting football when he joined Celtic because of stress. "It was like drowning in a swimming pool, being pulled out and thrown back into it," he said.

June 7 - Viduka announces Tottenham have made 5m bid for him, but 24 hours later his advisor Bernie Mandic dismisses the claim.

June 19 - Escapes further punishment from the Scottish Football Association for the spitting incident.

July - Work permit expires and returns home to Australia. The Department of Employment later extend his permit. Viduka returns to Celtic 48 hours late.

2000: February 12 - Refuses to play in the second half of Celtic's embarrassing 2-1 Scottish Cup defeat to Inverness Caledonian Thistle at Parkhead - a result which cost head coach John Barnes his job.

May - Voted Players' Player of the Year in Scotland after scoring 27 goals in 37 games.

June 8 - Leeds chairman Peter Ridsdale dismisses speculation they are to sign Viduka, saying: "We'll be signing Elvis Presley next."

June 20 - Leeds agree 6m fee with Celtic for the Australian striker.

2001: January - Named 2000 Oceania Footballer of the Year.

June - Goalscoring exploits for Leeds (17 goals in 34 games) attracts interest from Real Madrid and AC Milan. Viduka signs new five-year contract worth 25,000 per week.

November - Announces he may quit international football after failing to reach World Cup finals with Australia.

January 20 - Clashes with Arsenal's Martin Keown in 1-1 draw at Elland Road and is subsequently charged with using an elbow.

March 14 - Cleared by Football Association disciplinary panel of any wrongdoing.

2003: May: After scoring 22 goals in a disappointing season for Leeds, which narrowly sees the club avoid relegation, admits his future is uncertain.

August: Inter Milan have a loan move for Viduka rejected, just days after he talks over his future with Peter Reid.

September: Leeds say the player is not for sale.

November 5: Fined by Reid for turning up late for training - reportedly a week's wages, 65,000.

November 7: Does not travel to Portsmouth with squad after a "training ground incident" believed to be a bust-up with Reid.

2004: February 11: Fails to report for international duty with Australia ahead of a match in Venezuela claiming to have a hamstring injury.

February 19: Australian Soccer Association invoke a FIFA ruling preventing Viduka playing club football for five days after the period he should have been released for international duty.

April 5: Sent off after scoring in Leeds' 3-2 win over Leicester at Elland Road.

May 2: Scores opening goal but is later sent off as Leeds crash 4-1 at Bolton and are effectively condemned to relegation.

July 2: Passes medical at Middlesbrough.

July 8: Signs for Boro for 4.5m on a three-year deal.