West Ham United is delighted to confirm the signing of
Australian international captain Lucas Neill from Blackburn Rovers
for an undisclosed fee.
Having agreed personal terms and passed a medical at Upton Park, the 28-year-old defender finalised his move from Ewood Park this afternoon, choosing to sign for the Hammers despite reported interest from several other Premiership clubs.
Born in Sydney, Australia in March 1978, Lucas was registered on a football scholarship with the Australian Institute of Sport after leaving college in 1994, before moving to London at the age of 17 in November 1995 to join Millwall.
He spent six years at The Den, making more than 150 appearances for the club and helping them to win the old Second Division championship in 2001. Months after leading the Lions back to the First Division, though, Lucas stepped up another level to the Premiership, signing for newly-promoted Blackburn in a £1million deal.
After making his debut for Rovers in a 1-0 defeat at Sunderland in September 2001, he scored his first goal for the club weeks later in a 1-1 draw against Bolton, and became a first-team regular as Graeme Souness's men established themselves back in the top flight and ended the campaign in glorious fashion, winning the League Cup for the first time in their history.
A reliable and versatile performer who, although recognised as a right-back, is comfortable in the centre of defence, Lucas continued to display such consistency under Mark Hughes and, in just over five seasons at Ewood Park, made 227 league and cup appearances, enjoying two UEFA Cup campaigns and missing just a handful of matches throughout his career with the club.
Currently captain of the Australian national team, Lucas made his full international debut at the age of just 18, against Saudi Arabia in October 1996, and has since gone on to win 29 caps for his country, becoming the 50th player to captain Australia when he was handed the armband last October.
In November 2005, he was named man of the match as the Socceroos earned a penalty shoot-out victory over Uruguay in a World Cup qualifying play-off match to secure their place at the 2006 finals in Germany, and then played a key role in the centre of defence as Guus Hiddink's team progressed through tough group matches against Brazil, Croatia and Japan to reach the second round, where they were unfortunate to lose to eventual winners Italy after conceding a controversial penalty in the final minute of extra-time.
The subject of interest from Liverpool and Newcastle last summer after stating his intention not to sign a new contract with Blackburn, Lucas was described by Dutch legend Johan Neeskens, who became assistant to Barcelona coach Frank Rijkaard this year - as someone who "could play for any of the best clubs."
Exclusive reaction from Lucas Neill and Alan Curbishley to follow here on whufc.com...