Socceroo Harry Kewell says putting his family first is behind his decision to quit the Melbourne Victory and the A-League.
Kewell, 33, was set to sign a new contract with the Victory, for whom he played last season.
But his actress wife Sheree Murphy's mother is gravely ill, and he has decided to remain in England with her and their young family for the foreseeable future.
"It was one of the toughest decisions we've had to make," Kewell said in a statement issued by his management.
"I enjoyed playing for Victory and living in Melbourne, but family comes first and together we made a decision that it was best for us to remain close to our family at this time."
The Victory was only informed of the shock decision late on Saturday, and had been convinced up until then that Kewell would agree a new deal to remain at the club.
New coach Ange Postecoglou was saying publicly late last week he expected Kewell to remain, and that the Socceroo attacker would be an integral part of his plans.
"I was looking forward to working with him this season, but he has family matters that need his attention so while it's unfortunate, I completely understand," Postecoglou said on Sunday.
Kewell's A-League career looks to have ended with the decision.His immediate playing future now looks to be in England - and almost certainly in the north of the country where the family lives.