Newcastle Jets coach Ernie Merrick has given Andrew Nabbout his blessing to leave for Japan, confident the team has enough depth to cover for the star forward -- and Roy O'Donovan should the Irishman cop a suspension.
Nabbout pressed his Socceroos case further in Saturday night's thrilling 2-1 triumph over Sydney FC, netting a stunning goal from 30 metres to bring his season tally to 10 goals and seven assists.
The performance also did little to harm his chances of securing a formal contract offer from an interested J-League outfit, believed to be reigning Asian champions Urawa Red Diamonds.
With the Japanese transfer window open until the end of April, Nabbout could leave now if the club is willing to meet the half a million dollars or so to trigger the release clause in his contract.
The 25-year-old's departure would come as a blow to the Jets' first finals campaign in eight years that, based on Saturday's remarkable display with 10 men, could yet turn into a title.
But Merrick was unperturbed.
"If he happens to go in that window we would wish him all the best, he's been a great servant to this club," he said.
"He delivered last year as well, and if it's an opportunity for him to go to a bigger team in another country we would certainly wish him all the best.
"We feel we can cover that spot. He's been terrific to work with Andrew, and I feel we've done a lot for Andrew as well."
Further affecting Newcastle's attacking stocks could be a suspension to O'Donovan, sent off in the 14th minute for swinging his closed fist into the side of Jordy Buijs' head.
"I'm not sure both of those things [Nabbout and O'Donovan] will happen, but we've got Ronny Vargas and Pato Rodriguez who'll be in the squad for the next game," Merrick said.
"One of them certainly could have been in it for this one. We took a risk, we hoped we'd play well without Pato -- and the risk paid off."
O'Donovan's history may not play in his favour with the match review panel.
In early 2016 while at Central Coast, the Irish striker copped an eight-match ban for headbutting Wellington defender Manny Muscat, an action that Merrick, then the Phoenix coach, slammed as "going back to the dark ages."
Merrick said he hadn't seen a replay of the Buijs incident but believed O'Donovan's assertion his action wasn't deliberate and criticised the Dutch defender's reaction.
"He may have struck the centre-back but it wasn't deliberate, he even apologised to him," Merrick said.
"But knowing Roy, if he says that, he means it.
"It was quite a performance the centre-back put on ... pretty disappointing actually."