Perth Glory owner Tony Sage has opened up on the sensational decision of club captain Diego Castro to not return to play when the A-League restarted following the COVID-19 shutdown.
Sage, quoted by FTBL.com.au, claimed Castro “threw the contract at” coach Tony Popovic when asked to take a pay cut to see out the season.
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“I have never interfered in football matters, you can ask all my previous coaches,” Sage said. “That’s the job of the Football Director and Head Coach.
“The PFA (players’ union) and FFA came to an agreement on salaries for the hub not the clubs, and each club had to inform the playing group of the new player payments for the hub and get them to sign off.
“In our case Popa (Tony Popovic) and Jacob Burns, our football director, interviewed each player individually and got them to sign off on the paperwork.
“Our captain, Castro, was last on the list and was thought to be the easiest as he was the leader.
“After two minutes he threw the contract at both Burns and Popa. Tony Pignata (Glory CEO) also tried to chat to him.
“It was beneath him to play for less than his contract despite 99% of A-League players signing. The players did not like his attitude or decision either so Popa asked him not to train and he did not. He then went on a holiday and now he is trying to defend his position and presumably sue the club.
“At no stage in this whole process was I ever involved. Never spoke or communicated with him. The whole team, staff and coaches were shocked. That is the true story, so to say there was friction between me and him is a total lie.”
Castro has arguably been the A-League’s best player of the last five years, having taken the competition by storm after his 2015 arrival in Perth.
The 38-year-old attacker signed a two-year contract extension earlier in the year, although his future has now been thrown into doubt as a legal battle looms.
Coach Popovic’s future is also under a cloud, with strong links over a move to Greek club Xanthi FC. The club is in the process of being purchased by Greek Australian Bill Papas, president of historic NPL club Sydney Olympic.
Popovic is set to take over imminently, alongside former Western Sydney Wanderers academy coach Arthur Diles – himself a former Olympic player.
Sage said in a statement he had heard nothing from the manager.
“He is contracted for next season and it’s up to him to make a comment if he wishes to break that contract,” Sage said.
“Whatever he decides, the club is concentrating on the upcoming ACL season and signing seven new players to fill our roster.”