Melbourne Victory and their former defender Adrian Leijer parted ways with heavy hearts, according to coach Kevin Muscat.

Leijer packed his bags in the past week and headed for Chinese League One side Chongqing Lifan on a transfer after 173 matches and nine seasons at the Victory.

While Muscat described Leijer’s departure as an unwanted “disruption”, the Victory boss said the club didn’t want to stand in his way.

“For a number of reasons it’s not good when you get a disruption in the middle of a season,” Muscat told SEN. “We were a couple of days away from the last transfer window closing which was China and unfortunately it hit us.

“Ultimately we’ve got [the] final say, but in weighing everything up and the way that things went, we decided that it was best for all parties [that Leijer departed] and we move on … it’s a great opportunity for him.”

Muscat insisted the club never seriously contemplated replacing Leijer because it would have sent the wrong message to the 28-year-old’s former teammates.

“You can get a player relatively easy, but the way we’ve looked at things, we’ve done all our work in the off-season and come pre-season we were quite comfortable with the squad we had,” Muscat said.

“To bring someone in at this stage, you’re battling against what type of player is available at this time of year. If you’re honest [it would be] someone who is not playing, someone who is not wanted, someone who has been discarded and I just didn’t really feel at this point in time it was the right message to send to the rest of the team.”

In Leijer’s stead, Muscat confirmed Matthieu Delpierre would make his first start since late October after coming on as a substitute last week against Wellington Phoenix.