- Aussie starred for national team 96 times, made World Cup
- Also played for Blackburn, West Ham and Everton in EPL
- He was declared bankrupt in 2016, faced court this year
- Inside Ange’s Spurs: Listen to It’s All Kicking Off on how he transformed the club
Socceroos and Premier League star Lucas Neill has opened up about the harrowing financial and legal battle that saw him facing three years in jail over allegations he hid almost $4million from creditors after being declared bankrupt.
The Aussie football legend – who skippered his country and starred at the 2006 and 2010 World Cups – was acquitted in an English court on November 20 after facing charges that he didn’t declare the huge sum of money.
That capped off a shocking fall from grace for the 45-year-old, who was making as much as $76,000 a week while he captained West Ham in 2007.
Neill (pictured playing for the Socceroos in 2013) was once one of the most recognisable faces in Australian football
Now 45, he reportedly made almost $40million during a stellar career that saw him sign big-money contracts with giant English clubs like West Ham (pictured), Blackburn and Everton
He said his ‘rock bottom’ came when he had to attend a meeting with an insolvency service in 2016.
‘It was the realisation that after 20 years of a football career and all this hard work, I’ve got nothing to show for it,’ he said.
‘I feel like I didn’t protect my family … and that hurts. I let my family down.’
Thanks to that West Ham contract and other lucrative stints with big-name sides including Blackburn Rovers and Everton, Neill was rich enough to drive a Ferrari and purchase a string of expensive properties in the UK.
He played his last game of professional football for Doncaster Rovers in 2014 and reportedly earned close to $40million in his career – but was declared bankrupt just two years later after a series of investments went bad for him.
Neill is warning other footballers to be wary of the financial advice they receive after sinking a fortune into a scheme that was meant to give him large tax breaks for investing in British movies, according to The Times.
The scheme’s failure saw him chased by the taxman over a $765,000 debt, and a string of losses on property deals left him flat broke.
Neill (pictured in 2013) was left so skint he couldn’t afford to keep the lights on after a series of investments went bad for him
Neill faced the jail time because almost $4million he received for the sale of a 144-acre property was transferred to his offshore trust – but he had no idea money the came to him because he mistakenly believed the property had already been repossessed.
He is now trying to locate those funds.
‘My head was a mess. I could barely say sentences,’ he recalled.
‘I had just written out the whole tragedy of my life, and I was going to face my happy, innocent schoolchildren on a school pick-up – a new school, because we could no longer afford to pay for school fees for their old school.’
The insolvency firm chased Neill for the funds for seven years, during which time he was not released from bankruptcy, meaning he couldn’t buy a home for his family or even sign a contract for a mobile phone.
The former Socceroos skipper (pictured with partner Lindsey Morris) dodged jail when he was found not guilty of hiding money from creditors
Neill’s financial struggles left him unable to do something as simple as sign a contract for a mobile phone – and he’s sent a warning to other footballers about financial advice (Neill is pictured with Socceroos teammate Tim Cahill at the 2010 World Cup)
‘There were some really humiliating moments, like at 7.55am on a school morning, my kids answer the door to bailiffs trying to claim a council tax bill for £400 [$765],’ he told the publication.
Neill had so little money his electricity would get cut off. His partner, beauty therapist Lindsey Morris, worked to support the family as his income was reduced to his $1700-a-month football pension.
He now believes he ‘clearly wasn’t ready’ to transition from football to business and sounded a warning about financial advisors, saying some ‘constantly want to take a tiny slice out of you’.
Once one of the most recognisable faces in Australian soccer, he’s now coaching women and girls and working as a project manager.
‘I don’t care about fame or luxury,’ he said.
‘I Just want to survive with my family and that’s it.’