Tensions rise between Mariners and Sydney FC as Bojic departs

Central Coast Mariners are fuming over the manner in which defender Pedj Bojic departed the club, and have accused Sydney FC of making an approach for the player while he was still under contract.

The Mariners granted Bojic his request to be released from the final year of his deal on Friday morning after he expressed his desire to play in Sydney, where he has other work commitments.

Coach Graham Arnold was not going to stand in his player’s way but is seething after talks took place between Bojic’s representatives and Sydney FC while the defender was still contracted and preparing for their Asian Champions League knockout games.

Arnold said he agreed to release Bojic during the off-season to avoid disrupting his team’s performance, and requested that he delay all talks with other clubs until he was released. The Mariners boss and the club are ”hurt” by the alleged contract negotiations between Bojic and Sydney FC.

”I was disappointed with the way it came down in the end. Sydney can say they weren’t talking to him, well that’s not true because they were talking to him for three or four weeks … they didn’t leave discussions until after the ACL like I asked because of the long off-season,” Arnold said.

”All I asked [is] that the club be respected, I be respected and the team be respected and for it to be done after the ACL, not for him to be bothered. The player admitted to me after the game [against Evergrande on May 15] that his brain was rattled by everything that was going on about it.”

Sydney FC confirmed they spoke with Bojic’s agent to discuss a potential move but denied having spoken directly to the player while he was contracted to the Mariners. Sydney’s chief executive, Tony Pignata, said he was approached by Bojic’s agent, Lou Sticca, and discussed the possibility of signing Bojic but never held any formal talks with the player or discussed personal terms. ”If you mean by talking to his agent, as I said, a few weeks ago we did. I’m not going to deny that. Actually physically talking to Pedj? No.” Pignata said. ”Nothing ever with Pedj, it’s always been with his manager. The only time we’ve spoken about Pedj was via his player agent. That’s it.”

Since signing for the Mariners in 2008, Bojic has balanced his personal training business based in Sydney with his A-League duties, and revealed he could no longer manage the constant travel between Sydney and Gosford. Arnold said he understood the player’s position, and was prepared to release Bojic on ”compassionate grounds” during the off-season. He said that the nature of his departure and the alleged approach by Sydney FC disrupted the performance of the player during the first-leg knockout match against Evergrande and threatened to derail the focus of his team.

”The player admitted to me on the Friday or Saturday after when I spoke to him, and basically I went off my brain at him a bit because I didn’t like the way it was handled in the last few days and it hurt our team,” Arnold said. ”For me, the team is the most important thing. The team overall, we got let down. I don’t blame Pedj that much, I blame Sydney FC.”

Bojic was dropped for the second-leg of the tie in China after Arnold lost faith in the player due to the discussions with the Sky Blues.

”I told Pedj, this is really hard for me deal with,” Arnold said. ”Let’s make it clear, the reason he has been released is because he’s agreed to a deal with Sydney FC.”

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