The Mariners have bid farewell to their long-serving captain, who described the offer from the K-League champions as being in the 'too good to refuse category'Central Coast Mariners captain Alex Wilkinson has left the club to join Korean K-League leaders Jeonbuk Motors on a two-and-a-half year deal.
The 27-year-old central defender has conceded he will miss Central Coast, having been at the Gosford-based club since the A-League's inaugural season.
"It has been seven years with the Mariners and I've loved every minute up here," Wilkinson said in a statement on Wednesday. "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."
Wilkinson becomes the third key player to leave the Mariners for Asia in the past seven months, with striker Matt Simon already in Korea with Chunnam Dragons and defensive midfielder Rostyn Griffiths having moved to China.
Central Coast's head coach Graham Arnold said there was little his club could do about the moves.
"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.
Wilkinson is the Mariners' games record holder with 172 matches and will remove a huge chunk of experience from the Central Coast line-up.
But Arnold believes he has two youngsters ready to take their former captain's place in the centre of defence.
"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," Arnold said.