The Blues have lost the services of Christian Burgess to Royale Union Saint-Gilloise on a free transfer, despite keen to keep him.
The exit of The News/Sports Mail’s Player of the Season echoes the departures of Nathan Thompson and Enda Stevens in recent years.
Similarly, both players were lined up by the club for fresh deals, yet preferred to quit Fratton Park as free agents to further their careers.
Now Burgess has followed suit following five seasons as a Fratton favourite.
Catlin told The News: ‘Christian, like us all, wanted to see how the season progressed.
‘By January, when we did start discussions, it was clear he had made his mind up and wanted to go somewhere else.
‘As a club, it’s not something you want to come out and explain publicly at that time.
‘I remember the situation with Nathan Thompson, saying he wanted to wait until the end of the season, which I felt was his right to do. That upset a lot of our fans and they turned on him.
‘You can always look back and think could you have done this? Could you have done that?
‘You could say that with Nathan Thompson, you could say that with a number of players, but, ultimately, we’ve always been disciplined in our negotiations.
‘Going into the last year of a contract at this level, not many clubs give extended contracts.
‘What tends to happen is if the players is good he wants to leave anyway and causes trouble in the changing room. If they are bad, you’re stuck with someone on a lot of money as a result of a new deal and the club is a loser.
‘Could we have done more? Obviously yes. But at what cost? And was his heart really set on playing for those extra years when he’d expressed to us that he fancied at some point trying himself with a different culture and a different country?
‘At the end of the day, money talks, but by giving one player a wage way above everyone else, it sets off a chain of events which clubs can’t come back from.
‘Certainly a three-year deal at this level is predominately the reserve of younger players with additional sell-on value.’
Burgess has signed for Royale Union Saint-Gilloise on a three-year deal with an option.
It brings an end to a Fratton Park career totalling 210 appearances and 12 goals since his June 2015 arrival.
Catlin added: ‘As a person, I think you will struggle to find anyone better than Christian.
‘I admire his humility and respect how he made clear to us that it was his desire to go and test himself abroad, experiening a different culture.
‘It has been my honour and privilege over the last five years to not only class him as someone I have worked with professionally, but someone I’ve grown to admire and respect.’
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