Central Coast Mariners captain Alex Wilkinson has agreed to terms with K-League side Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors FC on a two-and-a-half year contract.
Despite the move leaving Graham Arnold's side noticeably weakened from the squad that won the 2011/12 premiership, club officials were reluctant to deny the long-serving defender a lucrative opportunity, and worked hard to agree a transfer fee with the Korean side.
Wilkinson said he had mixed feelings about leaving the Gosford club after seven years.
“I’ve loved every minute up here,” Wilkinson said. “I love the team, I love the club, and that’s what has made the decision so hard.”
“But there was always a part of me that wanted to play overseas and this offer was in the too good to refuse category.”
“I’m leaving a great club behind [but] Jeonbuk are a very good team that has a very good set-up, so that made the decision a bit easier,” he said.
Mariners boss Graham Arnold admitted he was disappointed to lose his captain, but said the opportunity for Wilkinson to set himself up financially is one the player couldn’t refuse.
“Alex has been a great servant for this club for a very long time and we are disappointed to see him go, but at the moment Australian clubs simply cannot compete with the money on offer in other Asian leagues,” Arnold said.
“We have two Australian youth internationals in Trent Sainsbury and Zac Anderson at the Mariners who, given the opportunity alongside someone as experienced as Patrick Zwaanswijk, can do a fine job for us next season.”