Manchester United Women manager Casey Stoney says she could not stand in the way of defender Alex Greenwood's move to European champions Lyon.
The England left-back, 25, was United's captain as they won promotion to the Women's Super League last season, having arrived from Liverpool in 2018.
She has signed a one-year deal at Lyon worth 40,000 euros (£36,900), which could rise to 60,000 euros (£55,350).
"It was obviously difficult," former England captain Stoney told BBC Sport.
"We offered Alex a new contract but she had interest from Lyon and once we knew that she was interested in that move, I felt that it was only right that we let her go.
"If a player isn't fully invested here, it's right they move on and follow their dreams. Who was I to stand in her way?"
Greenwood, who has 41 England caps, will join fellow Lionesses Lucy Bronze, Nikita Parris and Izzy Christiansen at the French side, who pay some of the highest wages to female players in the world.
And Stoney says United are not yet in a position to match the salaries being offered by the club who have won the Women's Champions League four years in a row.
"The figures I hear that Lyon pay, no, we can't compete yet because we are in year two," added Stoney, who took charge of United after the club reformed last summer.
"We're going to grow this slowly and we're going to do it in the right way and we're going to make sure everyone's on this journey for the right reasons."
Releasing players 'one of the hardest things I have done'
Greenwood is one of five players to leave United this summer, after Charlie Devlin, Naomi Hartley, Lucy Roberts and Ebony Salmon were all released.
Stoney says that telling players that they are not being retained is "one of the hardest things" she has ever had to do.
"It's not nice knowing that you're changing some else's life and impacting them in a really negative way," she explained. "It was horrible but it's necessary in this game and for this team to evolve."
United have made five new signings as they go into their first season in the top flight.
The Netherlands' Jackie Groenen - a World Cup runner-up in July - became their first overseas player, along with fellow internationals Abbie McManus (England), Jane Ross (Scotland), Hayley Ladd (Wales) and goalkeeper Mary Earps (England).
However Stoney says that despite being linked with England's Toni Duggan, a deal to sign the striker from Barcelona was "never on the cards", and Duggan has since joined Atletico Madrid.
United's inaugural WSL campaign starts away to local rivals Manchester City Women on 7 September, with the match being held at City's men's team's Etihad Stadium.
BBC Sport has launched #ChangeTheGame this summer to showcase female athletes in a way they never have been before. Through more live women's sport available to watch across the BBC this summer, complemented by our journalism, we are aiming to turn up the volume on women's sport and alter perceptions. Find out more here.