Ivan Vicelich has signed a four-month contract to play in China a day after fellow All White Shane Smeltz reneged on his deal to play there.

Vicelich yesterday signed with Shenzhen Ruby FC, a team based in Guangdong province not far from Hong Kong, and travels there today to meet up with his new team-mates.

The 33-year-old has told Auckland City officials he will return to play for them in the NZFC once the Chinese season ends in the middle of November but international rules over professionals playing in an amateur league means a 30-day stand-down period will be enforced before he can play.

Auckland chairman Ivan Vuksich said he expected Vicelich would miss about six games but two of those were crucial O-League fixtures.

Shenzhen won the first Chinese Super League in 2004 but have struggled since and they are at present 12th out of the 16 teams about halfway through the season, 10 points behind the leaders but only three points off bottom.

They paid a "nominal" transfer fee to Auckland City but told City officials they would back out of the deal if they were expected to pay any more.

"We are not in a very strong position to demand transfer fees," Vuksich said. "It's very difficult for a club like ours but we are never going to hold players back from higher honours.

"[The deal] came like a shot out of the blue. It has been on the cards for the last three or four days and his agent jacked it up."

Vicelich said he would be open to offers to play professionally again after starting in all three games for the All Whites at the recent World Cup. It's likely he will be well paid for his troubles and he could see it as his last chance of cashing in.

While Smeltz was reported to have found China too much of a culture shock and was concerned about his family's ability to settle in China, Vicelich is well travelled and his young family is expected to remain in Auckland.

He returned to New Zealand two years ago to play for Auckland City after a 10-year professional career that included seven years in the Dutch Eredivisie. It's been a remarkable career since.

Vicelich had retired from international football in 2007 but answered an SOS from All Whites coach Ricki Herbert to play at last year's Confed-erations Cup when Ryan Nelsen pulled out with injury. He then captained Auckland to fifth at last year's Club World Cup, helped the All Whites qualify for the World Cup and was named Oceania Player of the Year.

It has left Auckland to find a replacement. They hope to announce a new coaching team in the next 10 days after Paul Posa backed away because of work commitments.

They signed former New Zealand under-20 and under-23 defender Phil Edginton, who has recently returned from studying at the University of Louisville, to replace Greg Uhlmann but will be on the lookout for another defender to cover for Vicelich.

Vicelich's move means he and Smeltz are so far the only two All Whites to pick up new contracts since the World Cup, although Smeltz looks set to return to the A-League with the Gold Coast after walking out on Shandong Luneng on Friday.

Vicelich couldn't be reached for comment yesterday.