Signing for League One rivals Doncaster Rovers on a free transfer, the midfielder parted company with a club he’d spent his entire career with.
Pompey had offered a product of their youth system new terms to remain at PO4 and to expand on his 193 games for the club.
However, the two-year deal on the table didn’t appeal as much as the three-year contract and promise of a fresh challenge on offer by Donny.
And as the Blues prepare to welcome Rovers to Fratton Park – albeit without Close who underwent knee surgery this week – Cowley has admitted he’d have loved to have changed the player’s mind.
He told The News: ‘Ben’s a great lad and a really, really good player.
‘I think it was clear that we would have liked to have kept him if we could have done.
‘I think you always miss good characters and you always miss good players.’
Close has gone on to make 17 appearances for the Keepmoat outfit, but has been unavailable since November because of injury.
His decision this week to go under the knife on a persistent knee complaint means he’s unlikely to play again this season.
That has robbed him of an emotional Fratton Park homecoming – prompting Cowley to wish him the best in his recovery.
Cowley added: ‘I think he had a really good start to life at Doncaster and has unfortunately just picked up, what looks like, quite a niggly injury, that he hasn’t been able to shake.
‘I think he came back (from an earlier injury), then it’s been a bit stop-start for him.
‘He’s a great lad, who loves football.
‘I think a lot of Ben and I just wish him well and hope to see him on the pitch sooner rather than later.’
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