At Leeds United, we have been blessed to have many legends from across the globe join the club. One of the biggest heroes of the 1990s, though, is Lucas Radebe. The South African international is regarded as one of the best central defenders to play for the club in the modern era, and more than earned his name as a Leeds legend. Let’s take a look at his career at Leeds.
Early Life & Background
Born on 12th April 1969, Lucas Radebe grew up in Soweto, near Johannesburg. He was part of a family of 11 children. He was sent away from his parent’s neighbourhood in Soweto due to the violence, instead moving to Bophuthatswana.
Radebe was always a well-liked footballer from his earliest days, and he eventually got his move into the first-team of his beloved Kaizer Chiefs. He joined them in 1989, winning a league title in his debut season. Interestingly, he started out as a goalkeeper!
However, he played in central midfield after a short period of time before being converted to his natural role as a central defender. From then on, he never looked back.
Lucas Radebe: From Unknown Deal-Fluffer to Cult Hero
Radebe joined Leeds in 1994 as part of a move for he and South African teammate Philemon Masinga. The duo moved to Leeds for a fee of around £250,000, and it was reported that Radebe only came along as part of the deal to keep Masinga happy. While “Chippa” only managed to play around 30 games for Leeds in a two-year spell, Radebe stuck around for a whole ten years.
In that time, he became an absolutely essential part of Leeds’s success for much of the mid-90s and beyond. Though he struggled to gain a place in the first-team under Howard Wilkinson, even returning to playing in nets when John Lukic was injured. He also played in goal against Manchester United, where his performance earned him further cult hero status.
When George Graham came in to replace Wilkinson, Radebe was made the team captain in 1998 and stayed in that role for a period of sustained, continued league success. He was a key part of the Leeds team that qualified for the UEFA Champions League, going as far as the semi-finals. He knocked back the chance to move to other major clubs such as title winning AS Roma and, crucially for Leeds fans, Manchester United.
Where did ‘The Chief’ Nickname Come From?
The name The Chief comes from a few places. Radebe was given the name for two reasons. One, his former association with the South African giants. And two, his leadership qualities that made him so revered by Leeds fans across an entire generation. Indeed, from 1998 until 2002, Radebe played a key role in marshalling a Leeds team that finished in the top five each season.
The name also stuck so much that British indie band Kaiser Chiefs, huge Leeds fans named themselves after Radebe’s former club!
Lucas Radebe: So Good They Named a Beer After Him!
While most players are happy to end their career at a club with a standing ovation, some end up with even more attention on their name. For example, in 2008, Radebe was given the ultimate Yorkshire honour: he had a beer named after him!
A beer was launched in 2008, and a vote by fans was put out there to name the beer. After a pretty contentious poll, Radebe was the person the beer was named after: Radebeer!
Lucas Radebe’s Leeds & Career Stats
Across ten years at Leeds United, Radebe played in an impressive 256 games. He also scored 3 goals for the club – not a huge amount, but still impressive. He was a key part of the team from his first season in 1994 right up until the final days of his exit. Though in his final season – our first in the Championship after everything melted down – seen only 3 games, it gave fans a chance to thank Radebe for a decade of service.
Away from Leeds, he played 113 games for his beloved Kaizer Chiefs between 1990 and 1994. He also played for his national team 70 times, winning the prestigious African Cup of Nations in 1996. In South Africa, he won a trio of league titles between 1989 and 1992.
As we all know, The Chief is one of the great names of the Leeds teams of the 1990s. To this day, fans still clamour for him to get back involved with the club in some capacity. Why not get ready for a potential Radebe return by rocking some of our The Chief attire? Show the rest of the country that you remember one of the great names in the storied history of Leeds United!