As one of the most historical clubs in English football, Leeds United have had their fair share of legends wear the shirt. This is a club that has long been recognised for its outstanding contribution to the English game. However, prior to a series of catastrophic gambles financially in the early 2000s, Leeds were a genuine power in the English game. They would regularly fight for titles and for European honours – and chief among that was their legendary South African legend, Lucas Radebe.
Having been away from the club for over fifteen years now, Leeds fans likely will have to wait some time to see a defender like Radebe again. At his peak, the 70-cap South African – who was described by the legendary Nelson Mandela as his “hero” – could have played for any side in the world. He was a crisp, clean defender with no shortage of ability on and off the ball. A true leader, too, he racked up over 200 league games for Leeds between 1994 and his exit in 2005.
Make no mistake; out of all the Leeds legends in the club’s history, few stand out as much as Radebe. Arriving in 1994 from his home nation, little was expected of a young South African who had only played in the domestic PSL. Haling from the well-loved Kaiser Chiefs, Radebe arrived at little fanfare but soon had fans talking about their new defensive stalwart. It did not take long for him to win the fans over in full and was pretty quickly becoming a player who the fans and teammates could rely upon in equal measure.
Few players in the history of Leeds have made such a big impact, especially players from abroad. Indeed, it would be hard to argue that he isn’t one of the best African players of all-time in English football.
Lucas Radebe left a cultural impact on a foreign city
When foreign player arrives, they are often beloved by the fans from the day they arrive until the day they leave. This often leads to some pretty interesting relationships being formed. For Radebe, though, it would be fair to say that the city of Leeds was able to give him as much as he was able to give back. In over 200 games, he was a standout defender that was a key part of the Leeds teams that nearly went all the way in the UEFA Champions League.
Indeed, he made such an impact that when a young band in the Leeds area were looking for a catchy name for their band, they named themselves after his former club: The Kaiser Chiefs. As massive Leeds fans, they were so taken by Radebe that they felt compelled to name a little bit of their history after the players former playing club.
He even walked out with Leeds-born boxer Josh Warrington, walking out with him to his fight to defeat Lee Selby in his first-ever World Title Fight. With Lucas by his side, he won the fight and became the IBG World Champion for the first time.
Not bad for a young centre-half brought in from South Africa, eh?