One of the Wellington Phoenix’ favourite sons, Manny Muscat, is leaving the club at the end of this season.
The 31-year-old Maltese international is returning to his home city of Melbourne after signing a two-year contract with Melbourne City.
Muscat said it was a wrench to leave the Phoenix after eight seasons with the New Zealand club but the move was based around family reasons.
“Rebecca is expecting our third child on July 2 and we decided it was time to move back to the family,” Muscat said.
“In the A-League you travel every second week and it will be good for Becks to have her family around her.
“We also have a house there waiting to be lived in so the move will be easy.”
Muscat joined the Wellington Phoenix after a superb pre-season trial against Sydney FC in Wollongong that has gone down in Phoenix folklore.
Remembering that night, when then coach Ricki Herbert had decided by halftime to sign him, Muscat laughed.
“That was an amazing experience and the first of many great times I’ve experienced with the Phoenix,” he said.
“I never expected to be at the club for eight seasons but I have enjoyed every moment and made some real good friends.”
No-one has been closer to Muscat than captain Andrew Durante and the pair are virtually inseparable, so much so that on game day the dressing room set up had to be changed so that Muscat (No 2) and Durante (22) could sit together.
Phoenix coach Ernie Merrick said Muscat would be missed on and off the field.
“He is a man of action, hard on the field, but get him off it and he is the perfect gentleman,” Merrick said.
“He has also been much maligned because of his competitiveness.
“I shake my head at some of the things he has been carded for because many times if it was anyone else it probably wouldn’t have even been a free kick.
“Manny has been a valuable player for our club because he can play any position in the backline and do it well and is also a very good holding midfield player.
“He is an all-round good quality player, a great competitor and good on-field leader; always committed at training and happy to do community work for the club.
“We will miss him but he goes with our best wishes and I wish him well in his new venture.”
Wellington Pheonix v Adelaide United
Saturday 5 March, 7.15pm