Steven Ugarkovic kicks off a one-year contract with Western Sydney Wanderers on Friday morning, with fellow midfielder Jordan O'Doherty heading the other way in a player exchange deal with Newcastle Jets.
Ugarkovic agreed to terms with Wanderers in January for next season but sought an early release to reunite with former Jets coach Carl Robinson at Wanderland in time for this season’s A-League finals.
After weeks of fraught negotiations the battling Jets - who are out of the running for the top six - agreed to allow the linchpin to leave in what is a huge boost for Wanderers’ play-off prospects.
Robinson’s side sits eighth after 20 games - two points off the playoff places - with six regular-season games remaining.
Ugarkovic’s arrival could act as a catalyst, with the 26-year-old a strong contender to make his debut on Saturday against Western United at Bankwest Stadium.
Ugarkovic’s agent, Jason Coorey, confirmed a deal had been done.
“As we speak Steven has signed a contract with Wanderers and he’ll be at training tomorrow morning (Friday) at 8am,” he confirmed.
“There was a bit of wheeling and dealing but a termination was granted at 3 pm and we signed the contract with Wanderers at 4.30.
“Jordan O’Doherty has gone to Newcastle. They initially wanted three Wanderers players (in exchange for Ugarkovic) but eventually agreed to one.
“Steven has no bad blood with Newcastle whatsoever and has enjoyed his four years there.
“But he thinks - and we think it’s a better move for his career to go to the Wanderers.
“He’s wanted to play with Wanderers since he was a young fella and really likes the coach (from Robinson’s time with the Jets). That’s a huge factor.”
0’Doherty has made just eight appearances for Wanderers this season and is likely to feature more regularly for the Jets, who are lagging last on the ladder.
“For Steven’s career going forward it’s going to be a new chapter and he’s really going to grow,” added Coorey.
Jets CEO Shane Mattiske said in addition to picking up O’Doherty the club had also received an undisclosed fee and were “comfortable” with a deal which “works for us and the Wanderers”.
“Of course we’ve been aware that Steve was going to be at the Wanderers next year and he had indicated that he wanted to be released early,” he added.
“We weren’t prepared to do that unless it was a deal that worked for us and now we are late in the season we’ve been able to reach an agreement where we are getting a player with national team experience (Australia U-23s) who will bring strong input to us now and into the future.
“A big focus now is to finish the season as well as we can. “We obviously want to build a strong squad for next year and Jordan is part of that.”