Central Coast Mariners have confirmed Michael McGlinchey will follow Graham Arnold to Vegalta Sendai, with Bernie Ibini returning to Gosford.
New Zealand international McGlinchey starred as the Mariners won the 2012-13 A-League championship under Arnold, who left the club in November to take over at J-League side Vegalta Sendai.
Reports soon emerged that attacking midfielder McGlinchey had been targeted by his former coach, and it has now been confirmed that the 26-year-old will head to Japan on loan for the duration of the 2014 J-League season, which runs from March until December.
The departure of McGlinchey, who will leave after the Round 13 game at home to Melbourne Heart, is a blow to Central Coast's hopes of retaining the title.
It will be somewhat compensated for by the return of young striker Bernie Ibini on loan from Shanghai SIPG during the Chinese Super League off-season.
Ibini, 21, will be with the Mariners until the end of the domestic season, and will provide competition for the likes of Daniel McBreen, Mitch Duke and Matt Simon.
An effective replacement for the industrious, influential McGlinchey will be harder to come by.
"Of course it is not ideal for us to lose a player of Michael McGlinchey's quality mid-way through the season, but when an opportunity to move to a league such as the J.League presents itself, players naturally want to head abroad and test themselves," Mariners head coach Phil Moss said.
"Mikey is headed to Vegalta under Arnie (Graham Arnold) for a season and will return as a Central Coast Mariners player when the 2014 J.League season concludes."
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