Queens Park Rangers, a club not unfamiliar with financial miscalculations, are paying the price for mangling the management of Socceroos midfielder Massimo Luongo.
Luongo, 26, has one foot out of the door but the cash-strapped Championship club might be lucky to recoup, let alone surpass, the total £3.5 million (A$6.3 million) they paid Swindon for him and Ben Gladwin four years ago, with Nottingham Forest the most likely destination.
A year ago - when Luongo still had two seasons remaining on his contract and solid interest from China, the Middle East and elsewhere in the Championship - the R’s could easily have banked in excess of $10 million for sanctioning a move.
But they neither sold him, nor tied him to a long-term deal.
Instead, the club inexplicably allowed his contract to run down - a move which slashed his market value and has incentivised the in-limbo Luongo to remain on the books for another season and leave as a free agent in mid-2020.
Though more than open to a fresh start elsewhere having been left out of QPR’s pre-season tour of Austria, Luongo - it’s understood - is far less close to sealing a move than has been reported.
There have been no face-to-face talks with any suitor, despite new coach Mark Warburton resigned to his departure and actively looking to facilitate his exit to free up cash for future signings.
A long-time Luongo admirer, Warburton ironically tried unsuccessfully to buy him on at least two occasions when he was in charge of his previous club Nottingham Forest.
Warburton, who believes Luongo has the quality to play in the Premier League, is concerned by the current impasse.
QPR have their backs to the wall after flouting Financial Fair Play edicts during their promotion season to the Premier League in 2014, and have agreed to a $76 million settlement with the English Football League.
Director of football Les Ferdinand admits the entire squad are for sale, and Warburton summed up the Luongo situation by telling the club’s official website: “Massimo has been a loyal servant of the club for the last four years and his passion and commitment for QPR has always been there for everyone to see out on the pitch.
“Massimo’s future could now lie away from QPR and therefore it is important that we prepare for that potential eventuality.
“We will give opportunities in Austria to some of the club’s younger players who have come through the academy, such as Charlie Owens and Charlie Rowan.”
QPR tackle Australia midfielder Jimmy Jeggo’s Austria Vienna on Saturday (AEST) in their first match under Warburton.
Whether Luongo has played his last match for the club is a question yet to be answered.