OXFORD United did as much as possible to keep hold of star winger Josh Murphy, head coach Des Buckingham has said.

Murphy played a pivotal role in helping United clinch promotion from Sky Bet League One during the 2023/24 campaign, with his season culminating in the play-off final at Wembley, where he scored both goals in the 2-0 victory over Bolton Wanderers.

The 29-year-old is out of contract though this summer, and this newspaper understands that the U’s offered Murphy a deal which would have made him the club’s highest ever paid player.

Murphy though opted to join fellow promoted side Portsmouth instead, signing a three-year contract which includes a 12-month option.

READ ALSO: Josh Murphy pens heartfelt goodbye after leaving Oxford United

Buckingham said: “We did as much as we could to try and make sure we kept Murph here, but at the end of the day, he’s made the decision for him and his family at this stage of his career, to make a change and go down to Portsmouth.

“There are no regrets in terms of what we did. We did as much as we possibly could’ve, and we can only thank him for the contribution he made, certainly in the six months from when I came in November.

“He was a player that wasn’t playing and wasn’t really enjoying his football. He came in and really grew into his role in the team, and was able to showcase the type of player he is, and it really enabled us to go on and do what we did last year.

“We speak about leaving things in a better place than how you found them, whether you’re a staff member or a player, so that when you move on, they’re in a better place, and he’s allowed us to do that.

“We wish him well, but not against us of course, and I hope he’s able to continue showing people what he’s capable of doing.”

Buckingham added: “Across the board, from recruitment and myself, to the chairman and the club overall, I think there’s not much more we could’ve done.

“There are different reasons people move on, and when we look back at it, we did as much we could.

“You have to respect the decision of the player, and people make different decisions for different reasons, and he feels that it’s the best movement for him at this time of his career.

“We can only thank him for what he’s done and the way he allowed us to play, and certainly the game at Wembley, he provided some wonderful moments that we’ll remember for the rest of our lives.”