SINGAPORE: Former Arsenal and Liverpool winger Jermaine Pennant will be leaving S.League side Tampines Rovers at the end of the season, he confirmed on Thursday (Oct 27). The announcement comes nine months after he was unveiled as the S.League's biggest acquisition.
"I wasn't offered a new contract, and wasn't offered a new figure," he said to the media. "I guess they realised they wouldn't have been able to (offer a good deal) and would have been less than half of what they've been paying. I guess they realised I wouldn't have been able to accept it. It is understandable ... it is what it is."
Tampines Rovers have declined to confirm Pennant's salary, but it has been widely reported to be around S$20,000.
Speaking to Channel NewsAsia, Stags chairman Krishna Ramachandra later clarified that Pennant was indeed offered a new contract, but that the figure quoted was not as high as it was for this season.
Citing financial issues at the club, Krishna said that Pennant's wages were not sustainable for Tampines next season. "We need to realise that not one single person alone makes a team. Given that philosophy, I also don’t want to - at the expense of getting one super-scale salaried player - jeopardise the package that can be offered to the rest of the players," the corporate finance lawyer added.
"That was my paramount concern and motivation for ensuring the equality of pay for as many players as possible. Sadly, it meant that we were unable to pay one single player a huge amount."
Pennant also hinted that he is not the only one moving on. "Not only me, but quite a number of players are not coming back to Tampines Rovers next season. It's a sad time, as the team has gelled so well. I think if the chairman could add a few more players to our team, we might even win the league or make it to the final of the AFC Cup. It's just sad that things have had to end the way they have after starting so well."
He added that he was "quite happy" with the way Rovers performed this season. "As a team, we finished 2nd and just 1 point behind Albirex Niigata in the S.League, made it to a Cup Final and narrowly missed out on the semi-final of the AFC Cup. We were unlucky, in those few games we would have won and we could have been champions."
As for what is next, he said his next destination "would probably be the Championship back home in England". "The team I can't really say because I don't want to jinx anything. I'd probably look at some offers in Europe as well. It would either be clubs in Europe or in the UK, so we'll see."
Saturday's Singapore Cup final is likely to be Pennant's final appearance for the Stags.
The 33-year-old joined Tampines Rovers in January to much fanfare. Back then, he was hailed as the player that would reignite supporters' passion for the S League. Pennant scored five goals in 21 S.League appearances this season.