Nemanja Vidic will leave Manchester United at the end of the season, the captain stating he wants to challenge himself again. Internazionale are the favourites to sign the 32-year-old, who will move abroad as he has no wish to play for another English club.
The announcement ends eight supremely successful years at Old Trafford during which the Serb won five Premier League titles, the Champions League and three League Cups. The decision of Vidic, who with Rio Ferdinand formed one the best central defensive partnerships of the Premier League era, signals what may be the first of an exodus of senior players at the close of David Moyes's inaugural season in charge.
The futures of Ferdinand and Patrice Evra are also in the balance. As reported by the Guardian in January, Vidic's acceptance that his days at United are over will have come, in part, because of his recognition that the club were still deciding whether to offer him fresh terms on a deal that expires in the summer.
The two serious knee injuries Vidic suffered during the past three seasons significantly curtailed his playing time and made him less of a force.
Vidic may move to Italy, where Juventus, Internazionale and Fiorentina retain an interest. In a statement he said: "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 [winning the Champions League], memories that will live with me and the fans forever.
"However, I have decided that I will move on at the end of this season. I want to challenge myself again and try to make the best of myself in the coming years. 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."
Vidic's exit in the summer underlines the major rebuilding job Moyes has to undertake, with the Scot having been handed a mandate to do so when succeeding Sir Alex Ferguson last July.
With Wayne Rooney yet to extend a contract that ends at the end of next season and United languishing outside the Champions League places, the 20-times title winners are in their greatest state of flux in a generation.