THE Newcastle Jets' marquee position is vacant after the club confirmed on Wednesday that Venezuelan midfielder Ronny Vargas will not be retained next season.
The 32-year-old creative spark is one of six players alongside fellow import Jair, Wanderers-bound fullback Daniel Georgievski, home-grown utility Nick Cowburn and fringe players Kwabena Appiah and Jake Adelson to be released.
Talks with in-form striker Roy O'Donovan are continuing and the club is confident of retaining the Irishman.
Jets chief executive Lawrie McKinna is in China this week to finalise a player budget for next season with owner Martin Lee.
Vargas, whose wages sit outside the $3 million salary cap, is one of the highest-paid players in the club's history.
"With regards to Ronny, the club has decided to go in another direction," Jets manager of football operations Joel Griffiths said. "We thought it was important that we be transparent about that. We want to give the fans an opportunity to thank Ronny and all the players who are departing. They are either heading to another club or are not in the coach's plans for next season. I have had a conversation with every player who is leaving. There are no secrets. Players, regardless of whether they have played two games of 200, understand the landscape. They know clubs have to make hard decisions.
"The club is in a good position with the players we have signed for next year. We are bringing in Matt Millar, who I think is a great find, hopefully we re-sign Roy and we can bring in a couple of of other quality players."
Vargas, a silky-skilled No.10, has scored five goals in 29 appearances for the Jets. His contribution would have been greater if not for a horror ankle injury in round three of the 2018-19 campaign, which threatened to end his career and wiped out four months.
"Any time you have a major injury it impacts on confidence," Griffiths said. "He showed us what he could do in patches. Having Ronny around the club and the impact he had on the dressing room ... he was a breath of fresh air. The boys loved him. He was easy to work with and very coachable."
Vargas has been linked to a return to Belgium, the homeland of his wife, Justine, and where he played previously for Club Brugge and Anderlecht.
"With players the calibre of Ronny and Jair, I would be surprised if they did not have interest from clubs around the world," Griffiths said.
Of the players departing, Vargas is the only one likely to be involved against Sydney FC in the final game at McDonald Jones Stadium on Saturday. The Jets, after making the grand final last season, will finish seventh regardless of the result.
In the past, the club has waited until the end of the season to confirm departures, but Griffiths believes the players and fans deserve a chance to say good bye.
"It's a fitting gesture," he said. "I never had that opportunity. After speaking to current and former players, they felt strongly in favour of it. Nick Cowburn has been at the club five years. It is a hard call to let any player go, especially someone like Nick, who is a local boy. His dad and brother also played for the club. It is a tough call, but it's one we had to make for the balance of the squad. I think it's important that the club is transparent in relaying that message to the fans. It gives them an opportunity to go to the game and thank the players for their contribution, whether they have been here a couple of months, one season or five years.
"When I told Nick he wasn't in the club's plans, he had a promo to attend the next day. After getting that news, the last thing you want to do is a put on a happy face. Nick, to his credit, was the ultimate professional. I am sure he will find a club. He is a good player, it's just that we have an abundance of players in his position."