Leeds, Liverpool, and beyond - the strange career of Harry Kewell 0

Harry Kewell announced yesterday that he intends to retire at the end of the current Australian domestic season, and that will bring an end to a career which began in England back in 1996.

For fans of a certain age, Kewell will always be synonymous with the brilliant young Leeds side who came to prominence around the Millennium, but for anyone under twenty-one he is probably an irrelevance.

The Australian was the jewel in the crown of David O’Leary’s team and, despite the obvious quality throughout the rest of the side, Kewell was special. He played so elegantly, and he had this wonderful tendency of drifting into all kinds of positions in the final-third and scoring some sensational goals. He was a Muhammad Ali of a footballer: he glided around the pitch effortlessly, but he packed one Hell of a punch.

Some of you will remember the Serbian player Ljubinko Drulovic, and Kewell always reminded me of him. They were both very left-footed, both had a first-touch to die for, and each struck the ball with such purity. The phrase ‘a cultured left-foot’ was invented for those two.

Remember Kewell’s stunning outside of the foot drive that cannoned-in off the crossbar at Hillsborough? Or his angle-defying laser-beam at Highbury? Those both belong in the pantheon of great Premier League goals.

And then, like almost everything associated with Leeds United at the time, it went wrong for Kewell.

The financial meltdown at Elland Road was so dramatic, that Liverpool were able to snag him for a cut-price £5m - which, given that Kewell could have had his pick of European clubs, looked like a brilliant deal.

Unfortunately, Leeds United’s version of Harry Kewell died with the team that he left: he was never the same player. Injuries hampered him, certainly, but he was never given the same kind of freedom at Anfield that he was at Elland Road, and he never came close to having a similar impact. He had some highlights - a stunning far-post volley against Tottenham probably being the most memorable - but over time he became more synonymous with making unlikely appearances in cup finals than he did with highlight-reel football.

He left the Premier League for good in 2008 and enjoyed a three-year renaissance in Turkey with Galatasaray, but although successful he never burned nearly as brightly as he once had.

Kewell isn’t a caveat, and he’s not an example of someone who derailed his own career through attitude problems or poor mentality, he was just an outrageously-gifted footballer who never had the luck he needed to become the player he should have been.

What a talent - and what a shame we didn’t see it for longer.

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