Cape Town - Orlando Pirates chairman Irvin Khoza says he wanted to keep Thabo Matlaba but the player could not afford a salary decrease.
Matlaba, a former Pirates captain, parted ways with the Sea Robbers after seven years of service.
The 31-year-old turned down a reduced contract package from Khoza to stay on and is now a free agent.
Of late, he has been linked with the likes of Highlands Park, Bidvest Wits and Maritzburg United.
"Matlaba it's unfortunate that he had to leave. As our former captain, a responsible captain, we wanted to keep him," said Khoza as quoted by TimesLIVE.
"We asked him to make considerations on his package and come back with a proposal and he could not see himself reducing his package and he wanted his clearance.
"May I add that [Juan] Mata at Manchester United, because of the same situation, he was asked to consider and I think he changed his package by less than 45 000.
"He understands the reality of football. When you get to a certain age, it's not the same as when you are 21 or 22. So we tried to make it easy for him.
“There are so many qualities in him as a leader that we yearn to have kept, but unfortunately because of his circumstances, which I understand, he had to go somewhere to maintain the same salary structure. But we wanted to keep him. It's sad to leave a player."