Former Fulham winger Damien Duff is poised to move to Australia and become the first major signing for the club bought by Manchester City’s owners.
The 35-year-old, who announced his decision to quit relegated Fulham this week, will join the A-League after the World Cup Finals.
The former Republic of Ireland international will become the first major signing for the newly-formed Melbourne City, who are hoping to change their name from Melbourne Heart in time for next season.
City’s Abu Dhabi-based owners, who have also purchased sides in New York and Japan since acquiring Manchester City six years ago, are hoping to build a competitive side Down Under. Heart are currently bottom of the A-League.
Duff, capped 100 times by Ireland, had been linked with a return to his home country and a role with Bray Wanderers in the SSE Airtricity League. But he has turned his back on a potential return to the Premier League or any moves to clubs in Europe, or even a drop to the Championship with Fulham, to move Down Under.
Duff will take a summer break with his family before moving to Melbourne for the second part of their season. He has had his pick of A-League sides, including Heart’s city rivals Melbourne Victory, Sydney FC and Perth Glory. City’s backers are prepared to match Duff’s wage demands.
His decision to quit Europe for a lucrative move to Australia will still come as a surprise, even though he made just 11 league appearances last season.
Former Chelsea and Newcastle midfielder Duff left Craven Cottage after five years and nearly 200 games, following their relegation from the Premier League, and was looking for a new challenge.
‘It was time for everyone, for me and the club to part ways,’ he said. ‘It’s sad but that’s the way it is.
‘I’ve matured as a person and a player at Fulham.
‘Since I’ve been here I’ve got married, had two kids, so it has been a special time in my life and I stand by what I’ve said before that my most enjoyable time in football has been at Fulham.’
But Duff, who is signing an initial two-year deal, will be by far the biggest foreign star Melbourne has attracted since the A-League was founded 10 years ago.
Former Liverpool midfielder Harry Kewell is currently playing for the club, who are managed by Dutch coach John van’t Schip.