Sir Alex Ferguson confirmed Ruud van Nistelrooy wished to leave Manchester United after landing in Durban for the start of the pre-season programme.
The news is set to trigger bids from Real Madrid and Bayern Munich, both of whom have been heavily linked with the 30-year-old since he fell out with the United manager at the end of last season.
However, United officials have made it clear that they will not let Van Nistelrooy leave on the cheap and it will take a bid well in excess of the £10m Real are rumoured to be prepared to pay for the forward, one of only eight players in the club's history to score 150 times.
"There may be some interest from Real and Bayern," Ferguson confirmed. "I am waiting for [chief executive] David Gill to fill me in but Ruud has asked to leave."
Although there have been some suggestions Ferguson was ready to make peace with Van Nistelrooy, the former PSV Eindhoven player's departure appeared inevitable after a furious bust-up with his manager before the final Premiership game of last season against Charlton. Van Nistelrooy is said to have reacted badly when told he was being overlooked for the Premiership encounter in favour of the youngster Giuseppe Rossi.
The striker was immediately banished from the team hotel and then barred by Ferguson from playing in Roy Keane's testimonial three days later.
Prior to the World Cup, Van Nistelrooy insisted he did not know what had sparked Ferguson's anger, although the Scot did issue a veiled hint that the Dutch international's attitude was having a negative effect on the rest of his squad.
After a disappointing tournament, which Van Nistelrooy ended on the bench after being dropped by Marco van Basten, he asked for a chance to speak with Ferguson to thrash out his future. Instead, talks between Van Nistelrooy's agent, Roger Linse, and Gill have resulted in his exit being confirmed, with the destination still to be determined.
It has already been reported the player - who is apparently holding a farewell supper for his friends in Manchester tonight - has agreed a three-year deal at Real Madrid.
Such a scenario raises the intriguing prospect of Van Nistelrooy remaining a team-mate of Cristiano Ronaldo, with whom he had a major training ground dispute at the end of the season. Ronaldo has yet to confirm that he will remain at Old Trafford next season after claiming that he was bound for Spain both before and after Portugal's World Cup quarter-final defeat of England in Gelsenkirchen.
United released a statement earlier this week insisting there was "no possibility" that Ronaldo would be sold and any bids would be rejected. Ferguson has yet to speak publicly on the Ronaldo issue.
However, speculation continues to surround the player, with Valencia the latest to express an interest in him. "His arrival would bring great happiness to everyone," said Valencia's coach, Quique Sanchez Flores. "He is a very young player that is capable of doing important things. There should be more players with his quality in the market."
Ferguson also confirmed he is "in the process" of signing the goalkeeper Tomasz Kuszczak from West Bromwich Albion. Ferguson, who has been seeking cover for Edwin van der Sar at Old Trafford, also revealed that Ben Foster would be returning to Watford on loan for all of next season. "We are in the process of tying up a deal with Kuszczak from West Brom," Ferguson said. "He has Premier League experience and he will be the number two to Edwin van der Sar."
Regarding Foster, the Scot said: "We have an agreement with Watford that the boy goes back for the full year." United have also loaned the US international goalkeeper Tim Howard to Everton for the forthcoming season.
Life and times of Ruud van Nistelrooy
* CAPS AND GOALS
Netherlands 50 caps, 26 goals
Man Utd 150 games, 95 goals
PSV Eindhoven 67 games, 62 goals
Heerenveen 31 games, 13 goals
Den Bosch 69 games, 17 goals
* PLAYING HISTORY
Den Bosch 1993-1997
Wins Dutch Supercup.
PSV Eindhoven 1998-2001 Signed for £4.2m.
Makes international debut against Germany in November 1998.
Top scorer in Dutch League in 1998-99 and 1999-00.
Wins Dutch League 1999-00, 2000-01.
Manchester United 2001- Signed for £19m.
Wins Premier League 2002-03.
Wins FA Cup in 2004. Wins League Cup in 2006.
Join our new commenting forum
Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies