Yet Christian Burgess harbours hopes of one day making an emotional Pompey playing return.
Burgess has flourished in Belgium, firstly winning promotion to the top flight in his maiden season and now topping the table by seven points.
It has been an educated career gamble which has paid off handsomely for the 30-year-old, who left the south-coast after five seasons.
And Howard reveals the former The News/Sports Mail’s Player Of The Season would relish a second Pompey spell in the future.
He told The News: ‘Christian’s top of the Belgian League, seven points clear and absolutely loving his life out there.
‘He’s also the 15th best-performing player in the league, according to WhoScored.com, so he’s playing to a really high level.
‘Christian didn’t particularly want to leave Fratton Park, but the offer came at a time when Pompey didn’t know what league they were going to be in and weren’t handing out contracts.
‘Considering his age, the length of contract on the table and quality of contract, Union was something he couldn’t turn down.
‘I think he will always be loved at Pompey and has hopes of coming back.
‘Christian still carries out a lot of community work and we’ve done some stuff recently with Pompey fans. He’s sent them shirts and other things – not only is he a really good footballer, but a great human being.
‘His last six months at Pompey was probably his best performing time there. From the start of the season being told he was third-choice centre-back to finishing it as Player Of The Year was excellent.
‘He has another year and an option at Union, so still a long time, but we have spoken to them about an improved offer.
‘They’ve had some interest in Europe, so hopefully will reward him with a new contract because his performances deserve that.
‘I think we’d all like to see him back at Pompey. Christian with a bit of Champions League experience coming back to Pompey in the Championship, I think we’d all be happy with that one.’
Burgess made 210 appearances and scored 12 times for Pompey after arriving in the summer of 2015 from Peterborough.
During his time at Fratton Park he won the League Two title and the Checkatrade Trophy, while earned plaudits for his extensive community work.
He is contracted to Union until the summer of 2023, although the club have an option.
Howard added: ‘Christian’s a great age for a centre-back.
‘He’s still fully fit and looks after himself, while now has that experience to read the game and maybe cut out some of the mistakes he used to make in his younger days.
‘Any move is a gamble, especially when you go to another country. You have to be very careful, there are lots of horror stories about lads not getting paid
‘What has happened at Union has exceeded everyone’s hopes and dreams. Hopefully they can continue picking up results to make it into the Champions League.’
A message from the Editor, Mark Waldron
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