Claudio Caniggia has revealed he almost joined Celtic instead of Rangers as he left Dens Park in search of a place in the 2002 World Cup.
Despite playing just 25 games for Dundee in 2000/01, Argentine World Cup star Caniggia quickly etched his name into the club’s folklore with some stellar displays in Dark Blue.
At the age of 33, however, and the World Cup in Japan and South Korea on the horizon, Caniggia knew he had to be playing Champions League football to realise his dream of a third World Cup appearance.
In an exclusive interview with the Tele, he said: “Let me tell you, I remember Celtic came to me and Rangers also to speak about moving.
“I was already 33 years old and I wanted to go to the World Cup.
“I did when I was 35 because of that.
“Sometimes it is difficult to leave when you have had a great time but I couldn’t miss the opportunity – I wanted to play in the World Cup.
“Even though I took that decision, the Dundee fans were unbelievable. I can’t find the words to explain.
“I had played in two World Cups already and I knew I had to step up a little bit so I took the decision to play in the Champions League.
“It was difficult but I want to say to Dundee fans how much I enjoyed my time there.
“Really, my feelings with the people at the club and the staff who are there every day is very clear, I had great relationships with them all.”
Despite travelling to Asia for the tournament, Caniggia failed to make an appearance – that didn’t stop him receiving a red card for abusing an official, however, giving him the unwanted distinction of being the only player ever to be sent off from the bench in a World Cup.
The Argentine went on to win the SPL at Ibrox, along with two Scottish Cups and two League Cup winners’ medals before finishing his career in Qatar.
His time at Dundee, however, was one of the most enjoyable of his career, as the Tele revealed yesterday.
And this week, he is looking forward to returning to the city and recounting the many moments he enjoyed while a player at Dens Park.
He said: “I am really looking forward to coming back.
“My family enjoyed Dundee very much, too. I like Scotland and the people. I made a lot of friends and my sons made a lot of friends, too.
“I haven’t returned to Dundee for a long while, I’ve been to Glasgow when I came with Diego Maradona and the Argentina squad to play Scotland.”
Maradona’s managerial reign began that night with a 1-0 win at Hampden with his close friend Caniggia in attendance in 2008.
And the Dens legend revealed in the summer he almost made a sensational comeback to the international fold under his mate as a 42-year-old for the 2010 World Cup.
Despite reaching the heights of the biggest stage in football, Caniggia still remembers his time at Dens with fondness.
“I remember the first time playing Celtic and then Glasgow Rangers when I was very upset when Rangers came to Dens and won.
“Personally I thought we should have won – I played great, the team played great, I had two penalties on me but we could not score and I think they won 1-0.
“We had a great team at Dundee.
“Right now, the club are bottom, I have seen the position they are in. It is a shame for the supporters because it is hard when you are struggling.
“I would like to send a big heart to the supporters at Dundee and I am hopeful the club can get off the bottom.”
Claudio Caniggia will be at The Whitehall Theatre on Thursday, discussing his World Cup heroics and time at Dens with journalists Paddy Barclay and Alan Pattullo.
Tickets are still on sale via CC33.eventbrite.co.uk