The Manchester United captain, Nemanja Vidic, has declared that he intends to leave the club and the Premier League at the end of the season, further underlining the seismic scale of change that manager David Moyes has been confronted with.
The 32-year-old's resolve to depart from Old Trafford has become increasingly clear, with the player unwilling to accept a limited one-year contract extension, which reflects his injury problems and variable form. United are also preparing to offer the captaincy to Wayne Rooney from next season as part of their campaign to encourage him to stay.
With six months of his contract left to run, Vidic can now speak to interested Continental clubs – including Juventus, Monaco and Internazionale – with whom he is likely to see his current £100,000-a-week United contract halved. The Serb moved to end all speculation when he said he wanted to "challenge myself again" and "try to make the best of myself in the coming years".
"It's the last year of my contract and I have had eight wonderful years here. My time at this great club will always rank as the best years of my career. I never could have imagined winning 15 trophies and I will certainly never forget that fantastic night in Moscow, memories that will live with me and the fans for ever. However, I have decided that I will move on at the end of this season.
"I'm not considering staying in England as the only club I ever wanted to play for here is Manchester United and I was lucky enough to be part of this club for so many years. I've got a few options to move on and I will choose the right one for me and for my family. I am now going to focus all my efforts on playing for Manchester United and do the best I can for the team until the end of the season. I hope this stops any further speculation about my future."
With Rio Ferdinand and Patrice Evra widely expected to leave at the end of the season too, Moyes will need to rebuild his defence this summer; Phil Jones is likely to be at the core of the new unit. Vidic's unwillingness to accept a one-year deal underlines the importance of a top four finish for United as they seek to attract elite players.