Melbourne Victory Football Club has announced that former captain Adrian Leijer has signed a contract to play for Chinese Super League club Chongqing Lifan for the next two seasons.
Leijer, who turns 29 this month, played 176 Hyundai A-League games for Melbourne Victory from 2005, including 14 this season, as well as 10 AFC Champions League matches, and was a member of the club's A-League Premiership-Championship winning double in 2006/07.
Speaking from China, Leijer said the decision to leave the club that he first joined as a 19-year-old was extremely difficult.
"The decision to move to China to play football was one made with a heavy heart knowing that I'd be leaving a club that has provided me with the greatest moments of my career," Leijer said.
"Melbourne Victory has been like a family to me and the success shared with team-mates, and members and fans will remain with me forever.
"Leaving a group of great mates has been very difficult and I wish Kevin and all the boys at the club the every success this season and beyond and I will be following their progress very closely.
"I am disappointed that I had to leave during the A-League season to join Chongqing Lifan, but unfortunately the start of the Chinese season is imminent.
"I was offered a new challenge in China, and after much deliberation decided this was a new experience and a fantastic opportunity for my family."
Melbourne Victory head coach Kevin Muscat said it will be a challenge to replace Leijer, who contributed a great deal to the club.
"Adrian is a Melbourne Victory man through and through and has shown great loyalty and service to our club over a long period of time," Muscat said.
"I personally wish Adrian well in China as it presents a wonderful opportunity for his career and his family and I am sure he will acquit himself well in the Chinese Super League.
"Not only has Adrian been a wonderful servant of Melbourne Victory Football Club on the pitch but he has been great contributor off it too, around the office and in the dressing rooms, and quality people like Adrian Leijer are hard to replace."
The 2015 Chinese Super League commences this weekend with Chongqing Lifan's opening match against Beijing Guoan scheduled for Sunday, March 8.