Unsettled Steven Ugarkovic’s relationship with the Newcastle Jets’ hierarchy looks to have disintegrated, with the club refusing to terminate the midfielder’s contract and allow him to sign for one of three suitors, including Western Sydney Wanderers.
Long-serving Ugarkovic, 26, is looking to extricate himself from the final six months of his deal, and believes there is a “double standard” at play, after Jets CEO Lawrie McKinna declared on releasing Bernie Ibini last week the club “only wants players who want to play for the jersey”.
Like Ibini, Ugarkovic - who in October signalled his desire to exit the troubled club - offered to buyout out the remainder of his contract.
But, unlike Ibini, the Jets have told the former Olyroo that option isn’t on the table.
Ibini and ex-Jets coach Carl Robinson have both landed at Wanderers, however, Ugarkovic also has lucrative offers from two other A-League clubs, plus interest from China.
“If the club only wants players who want to be there, then why not let Steven leave?” said Ugarkovic’s representative Jason Coorey.
“We’ve been discussing a release from the Jets for three or four weeks and they said they’d get back to us ... well now they have.
“Steven has been informed he must stay for the season, and in the light of the Bernie Ibini situation, we feel there’s a double standard there.
“It’s very upsetting for the player. He no longer has a relationship with the Jets management and is really only talking to his teammates.
“The club isn’t in a good place and he wants a fresh start elsewhere, at a club where he feels he can enhance his chances of forcing his way into the national team setup.
“He feels he’s shown the Jets great loyalty over the past five years and is extremely frustrated.
“He was enjoying his football under Carl Robinson - and it’s no secret he’s an admirer of his.
“But there are offers from elsewhere also.”
Ugarkovic is free to sign a pre-contract elsewhere on January 1, and it’s understood he has until the middle of the month to finalize his departure from the Hunter if he’s to head to Wanderland.
If not, the Wanderers offer, for one, is unlikely to still be on the table.
Whilst Jets fans will be aghast at their former coach seeking to acquire another of their key assets with the season kickoff less than a week away, the scenario highlights the urgent need for the imposition of an A-League transfer system in line with the rest of the world.
Wanderers are already under the spotlight over the controversial Ibini capture, plus the recent arrivals of James Troisi from Adelaide and Ziggy Gordon from Central Coast.
All three players were under contract and whilst Gordon’s departure from the Mariners was cordial, much angst was generated by the manner in which Troisi and Ibini left their respective clubs.
Ugarkovic told The World Game in October: “I feel it’s time for a change. I’ve told the club but they’re not willing to support or make any compromise and that’s not very comforting.
“I’ve given everything for the Jets in my time here but at this stage of my career, I don’t want to be part of another rebuild.
“Ideally, I’d rather be somewhere where the future looks more solid and certain, on and off the field.
“It’s tough to have a huge amount of faith (in the club) right now.”
The Jets were contacted for comment.