Perth Glory have been dealt a blow on the eve of the A-League season with the shock departure of high-profile defender Ljubo Milicevic.
The controversial former Socceroo signed a one-year deal to return to Glory in August, marking a homecoming of sorts after his initial spell at the club from 1999-2001.
Milicevic, 32, declined to comment when contacted by The West Australian today.
But Glory chief executive Jason Brewer said the two parties had agreed to part ways so Milicevic could pursue opportunities elsewhere, most likely overseas.
"The contract's been finalised well ahead of what we anticipated, but it's by mutual consent and he wants to pursue other things," Brewer said.
"As a club we won't stand in the way of that.
"You've seen that in previous years when Mile (Sterjovski) wanted to go off to China.
"We won't stand in the way of players if there's other options they want to pursue and this is consistent with that."
The move leaves coach Alistair Edwards with fewer choices at centre-back for Glory's season opener against Adelaide United at Coopers Stadium on October 13.
But fringe Socceroos defender Michael Thwaite and Steve Pantelidis are proven performers at the back, youngster Jack Clisby is developing and Brandon O'Neill has been one of the outstanding performers in pre-season.
Milicevic burst onto the Australian soccer scene as a precocious teenager 14 years ago during his first stint with Glory in the old National Soccer League.
He played 29 games for the club in two seasons and became the youngest ever goal scorer in a national league final when he found the net during the famous 1999-2000 grand final, won by Wollongong on penalties after a thrilling 3-3 draw.
Milicevic played in the UEFA Champions League during an extended spell in Switzerland and represented the Socceroos eight times from 2005-06 before returning to Australia, where he linked up with Melbourne Victory and Newcastle Jets.
An ill-fated stint with Croatian side Hajduk Split again led Milicevic back to Australia, where he played with his original club Melbourne Knights in the Victorian Premier League before signing for Glory under former teammate Alistair Edwards.
He played several pre-season games in recent weeks.