Waibop United striker Maksim Manko will transfer to Waitakere United when the ASB Premiership transfer window opens on January 13, in a move which Waibop coach Peter Smith says "has left a slightly sour taste".
Auckland-based Manko performed well for Waibop in the first half of the summer season, potting four of his team's 12 goals.
But Smith was caught by surprise when Manko came off the bench for Waitakere United in their 1-0 friendly win over Wellington Phoenix A on Wednesday night.
Though Smith was first contacted by Waitakere co-coach Paul Temple at the start of the week advising his club wished to recruit Manko, the understanding was he would be available for Waibop's away match against Canterbury on Sunday - then transfer on the Monday.
But Smith can hardly play him against Canterbury now.
"We don't want to stand in his way," Smith said. "But when I saw he had already played for Waitakere - it was that horrible feeling.
"Nobody likes being made to look silly, for the sake of a two-minute phone call, so yes, it has left a slightly sour taste."
Waitakere were under the impression Manko had informed Smith of his intention to play in the Phoenix A match - but that was not the case.
However Smith said Waibop United would not enforce a stand-down period on Manko.
Under the standard premiership player agreement, Waibop could insist upon five week's notice in writing prior to releasing Manko - or seek a transfer fee.
But Smith said it should also be acknowledged Manko had worked very hard for Waibop on and off the pitch.
"While I'm disappointed, overall Maksim has been a great lad, a real team player, and this episode has been out of character.
"We understand the difficulty of travelling from Auckland and why he would want to take an offer from Waitakere, so at the end of the day he will go with our blessing."
Meanwhile Waitakere will also sign Allan Pearce - the all-time top goalscorer for the premiership - next week, after he was unavailable at the start of the season.
And Waibop are set to announce the signing of former New Zealand U20 and Team Wellington striker All White Ethan Galbraith, along with former Waikato FC striker Sam Messam next week. Messam has most recently been playing in the New South Wales Premier League.