UK-based player agent turned football consultant, Peter Harrison, offered a tantalising clue to one of Australian football’s biggest mysteries, when he told The World Game that - far from “turning his back on football” - 96-cap Neill might “just pop up” in a new guise when least expected.
Harrison, who concocted the deal which took Neill from Blackburn Rovers to West Ham on a $5 million annual package back in 2007, is one of the few football folk close to his inner circle.
Explaining he’s in regular contact with Neill, Harrison paints a positive and optimistic picture of where the former Socceroos captain is at now, and when and where he might “resurface”.
“It might be a surprise where Lucas may just pop up next,” Harrison said in a teaser for Neill-watchers far and wide.
“He hasn’t turned his back on the football or Australia and he will resurface again when he’s ready.
“In his own time, I think Lucas will make his presence felt again.
“He has nothing to hide and he’s a good guy with a huge amount to offer the game.
“He’s been a huge loss to Australian football in what he now has to offer off the field.”
Harrison would offer no further clues on Neill’s intentions, and whether he might be pondering coaching, a managerial-type position, a media presence or one of a myriad of other football-related roles.
“He was a hell of a servant to the game, not just in Australia but he also did terrifically well in the Premier League and abroad,” he added.
“He also played around the globe. I feel there should be a role for him somewhere in Australian football. But that’s just my opinion.”
Having skippered Australia at the 2010 FIFA World Cup, Neill severed ties with Socceroos teammates and almost the entire football fraternity after being dumped from the national team by Ange Postecoglou four years ago.
He was declared bankrupt in the UK, where he lives with his wife and twins in Lancashire, in 2016 after a string of failed investments including film-making, horse racing and property.
And the longer he’s remained silent and elusive, the more the fascination in him has grown, along with concern and bemusement from those he’s cut himself off from.
Harrison said Neill remains an avid patriot and will be glued to the screen watching the Socceroos, whose 2-1 opening World Cup loss to France tossed up a Lucas Neill-type moment with Josh Risdon’s tackle on Antoine Griezmann.
The decision, via VAR on this occasion, to award a contentious penalty evoked Germany 2006 when Neill’s lunge at Fabio Grosso led to the spot kick which saw Italy knock Australia out in the round of 16.
“I think Lucas 100 per cent will be following the Australians at the World Cup,” Harrison added.
“Look, I know Lucas well and I have urged him to get back into football.
“He knows his stuff, he knows his football, he speaks well and I think he’s had a raw deal but maybe that’s for other people to comment on.”
Referring to Neill’s financial travails, Harrison added: “A lot of players went bankrupt, often over investing in film schemes and Lucas is certainly not alone in that.
“He got bad advice on his investments but it’s not like he squandered his money on drinking and gambling as many players have over the years.”