MELBOURNE (Reuters) - Australia forward Tim Cahill has quit A-League team Melbourne City and will seek a new home to boost his chances of playing at a fourth successive World Cup.
Cahill, Australia’s all-time top scorer with 50 goals, leaves after netting 13 times for the Manchester City-owned club in all competitions since joining in August 2016.
“It’s never easy to say goodbye but it was great to win last weekend and make a contribution, and also to have the club sitting third in the league,” the former Everton and New York Red Bulls forward said in a statement on Wednesday, his 38th birthday.
Cahill, who arrived on a lucrative three-year deal, leaves only nine rounds into his second A-League season and after threatening to quit the Warren Joyce-coached City if not given more playing time.
He was used as a 77th-minute substitute in City’s 2-1 win at Newcastle Jets on Saturday.
The evergreen Cahill underlined his enduring class with two goals to help defeat Syria in the Asian World Cup playoff in October.
After the Socceroos beat Honduras in the intercontinental playoff in Sydney to secure a ticket to Russia 2018, he said he needed to make “big decisions” about his future as he attempts to earn a spot in the World Cup squad.
“Qualifying for the World Cup has been a great adventure, and it would be a massive honour to represent my country in Russia. That will be my focus in the coming months,” Cahill said on Wednesday.
Cahill, who has had stints playing in Europe, the United States and more recently China, made no hint of his next destination and with six months until Russia, may need to find a club quickly.
At 38, he would be unlikely to secure football at a prominent European club, so a return to Asia may be his best bet.
Recruited as a well-paid ambassador for City and the A-League, Cahill helped secure his team their first piece of silverware with a goal in the 2016 FFA Cup final against Sydney FC but he also missed plenty of football through injuries.
“Having players of Tim’s stature in the dressing room can only help develop a squad’s ambitions,” said City coach Joyce, who played down reports of a rift with Cahill last month.
“We all wish him the very best on the next stage of his career.”
Australia are searching for a new coach after Ange Postecoglou announced his resignation last month.
Reporting by Ian Ransom; Editing by Ken Ferris and Rory Carroll