Brisbane Roar's A-League title hopes have suffered a serious blow with key defender Luke DeVere to leave the frontrunning club next week for a three-year deal in South Korea.
DeVere on Friday morning announced he would leave the Roar following their Australia Day clash with Wellington after signing with Gyeongnam FC.
The 21-year-old has sacrificed the chance to win an A-League premiership and grand final by deciding to link with the K-League club before the end of a record-breaking season.
"It's tough to leave the Roar, especially at this point in the season, but at the same time it's a good opportunity for me and the level of football over there is a good step up from the A-League," he said.
"It's something that has to be done sometimes in football and it will further my career and develop me more as a player."
DeVere, a former Young Socceroos captain and a member of the Roar's leadership group, has become the third A-League centre-back to sign a lucrative K-League contract in recent weeks.
Big, strong A-League central defenders are the flavour of the month in Korea following the success of Socceroos hardman Sasa Ognenovski who led Seongnam Ilhwa Chunma to last year's Asian Champions League title.
Fellow K-League club Busan I'Park on Thursday signed Gold Coast United defender Bas van den Brink, who will join forces with Adelaide United's Iain Fyfe.
The Roar - sitting atop the A-League seven points clear of Central Coast thanks to a 21-match unbeaten streak - wanted to keep the rising star until the end of the finals series, but also did not want to stand in his way.
The versatile Milan Susak, who has been playing out of position this season, is set to replace DeVere in central defence alongside Matt Smith.
Roar coach Ange Postecoglou admitted he was "working the phones" looking for another quality replacement, possibly from overseas, to add depth to his defensive stocks.