Aaron Mokoena has moved closer to the Fratton Park exit door after agreeing a move back to his native South Africa.
The former Bafana Bafana skipper has agreed terms on a free transfer to ambitious Johannesburg-based Bidvest Wits – who are also set to sign former Blues striker Benjani.
Mokoena’s departure would be a boost with Pompey, with administrator Trevor Birch last week revealing that the club have to move on at least two players before boss Michael Appleton could bring in any new faces for next season.
The defender moving on would also remove around £15,000 per week from the Blues’ annual wage bill of £9.6m and take them closer to becoming more suitable for new owners.
Mokoena’s agent Paul Mitchell – who is based in South Africa – confirmed that a deal has been struck in principle on the transfer.
But with Mokoena having one year remaining on his Pompey contract, the former Blackburn man must now reach an agreement with Birch on his pay-off.
Mitchell said: ‘It’s all agreed in principle but there is obviously some stuff to sort out with Portsmouth.
‘Him and his lawyer are dealing with the club on that.
‘From this side, it’s not an issue.
‘It’s just down to sorting things out with the administrator now, but it will be done as soon as possible.’
The 31-year-old centre-back left his homeland 10 years ago.
He is the most capped South African footballer of all time, amassing 107 appearances, and led their World Cup campaign on home soil two years ago.
Mokoena, who was signed on a free transfer from Blackburn by Paul Hart in 2009, had been sought by clubs in China and Qatar but has opted to return home.
‘I’ve represented Aaron to find him a club but he has had various things to consider,’ said Mitchell.
‘There was a bit of interest all over. But Aaron wanted to come home to South Africa and he is excited by the project that is going on at Bidvest Wits.
‘It’s quite a progressive club. They are looking to have a go.’
A potential stumbling block could yet derail the move.
The defender is still believed to be due bonus payments from the previous administration process, as well as money owed on his current deal.
But that is unlikely to deny him his return home or taint his affection for a club, where his popularity suffered during some of the most difficult times in Pompey’s history.
Mitchell said: ‘From the conversations I’ve had with Aaron, he enjoyed his time at Portsmouth but it’s just very unfortunate what’s happened to the club.
‘He always spoke about the fans being first class.
‘But he knows that he can’t stay there along with many other players who have to leave.’