Graham Arnold will remain coach of Central Coast Mariners next A-League season after knocking back an offer to join Sydney FC.
The long-running speculation over the former Socceroos coach's future came to an end on Monday, with Arnold informing the Sky Blues he would remain with the Mariners.
Arnold was the Sky Blues' No.1 candidate to fill their coaching position, made vacant by the return of Vitezslav Lavicka to his native Czech Republic.
But with Arnold hoping to delay a decision on his future until after the Mariners' Asian Champions League campaign, Sydney had set a deadline of 5pm on Monday for a decision.
Arnold had reportedly agreed in principle to take up Sydney's lucrative offer, despite having a year left to run on his contract with the Gosford club.
And with the Mariners' much-publicised cash flow problems and new Russian investors apparently hesitant at signing on at the club, he looked even more likely to make the move south.
But he has now turned his back on the deal, leaving Sydney to continue their search for a sixth coach in eight seasons.
Arnold put negotiations with Sydney on hold after the Mariners' 5-1 Asian Champions League thumping of China's Tianjin Teda at Bluetongue Stadium last week, a result which kept their hopes of progressing to the knockout stage alive.
Central Coast face Nagoya Grampus in Japan next Tuesday and need to win to progress to the last 16.
The Mariners are also guaranteed a spot in next year's ACL after taking out the A-League Premiers' Plate this season.
Arnold said in a statement released by the Mariners his decision was down to loyalty and respect for the Mariners players and the incentive of more Asian football.
"Two years ago I signed a three year contract with the Mariners, and I have decided to see that three year term out because of the loyalty and respect I have for the players, the chairman, the staff and all the supporters," Arnold said on Monday afternoon.
"We had a fantastic season and it is a big incentive to compete in the AFC champions league again next year.
"Already my main focus is on recruitment for next season but also next week against Nagoya (Grampus) in Japan.
"It's been a tough decision and I am hugely flattered by the interest I received from Sydney FC.
"I am very grateful to (Sydney FC football director) Gary Cole from Sydney who has been extremely professional, understanding and respectful throughout this process."
Arnold enjoyed almost instant success after succeeding Lawrie McKinna as Mariners coach at the start of the 2010/11 A-League season.
They were within seconds of claiming the A-League championship in a heart-breaking grand final loss to Brisbane Roar and backed it up by finishing top of the table over the regular season in 2011/12.
Arnold coached the Socceroos in 2006-2007 and endured a tough stint as Australia were knocked out in the quarter-finals of the 2007 Asian Cup.
He retained an assistant role with the national team under Pim Verbeek before returning to club coaching having coached Sydney United and Northern Spirit in the National Soccer League.
Central Coast chairman Peter Turnbull said of Arnold's decision: "The board, staff and players are all delighted that Graham has decided to continue his outstanding work at the club."
Sydney FC seemed surprised Arnold did not take up their offer, issuing a statement saying the club was not prepared to meet some of his conditions.
"Sydney FC presented a very attractive offer to Graham based on the understanding that he was free to join the club," Sydney FC football director Gary Cole said.
"We thought our offer gave everyone the best opportunity to come to terms.
"We had asked Graham for a final answer by today but we were presented with some last minute requests, which we were not prepared to meet.
"We have been working on a small number of alternative options for the head coach role and those discussions will continue."