Sergio Aguero has publicly stated his desire to leave Atletico Madrid during the off-season.
The Argentina striker posted a statement on his website tonight saying he felt he needed a move to continue his development. "I said long ago that when I wanted to go, I would say so publicly. And the time has come," the statement said. "So I keep to my word and here I am. I find it hard to leave Atletico. It hurts and saddens me.
"I've thought long and hard and I am convinced that I must be true to myself. I do not think I put a ceiling on the ability to keep learning, to keep growing. After five intense years, this stage for me personally is over and I have to give way to a new one.
"I'm about to turn 23 and I have everything before me. Suffice it to say that this is not an economic issue but strictly a sporting one. So I want to clearly express my appreciation to the club for the efforts they have made for giving me a salary that equates with the largest clubs in the world."
Aguero, 22, has scored over 100 goals for Atletico since joining from Independiente as a teenager in 2006. As recently as January, he signed a new contract that runs until 2014 and was also named the club's vice-captain.
However, Aguero tonight said that he signed the new deal with an understanding that he may leave this summer, merely wanting to ensure Atletico received a larger fee. "I want to say also that this decision has been maturing for some time," he added. "The issue was discussed and agreed with Atletico last year when I was renewing my contract.
"I wanted to sign as a way to give back to the club for all the support they have given me. Had I not done so, they might not have received any more for my transfer. I received then a promise that the club would not stand in my way if I wanted to leave this summer. Therefore, in line with that commitment and my decision, I have asked them to listen to any offers they receive for me from different clubs."
Atletico suffered a disappointing season as they finished seventh in La Liga, although that has been good enough to earn them a UEFA Europa League berth. Nevertheless, speculation over Aguero's future has been rife in recent days with the likes of Real Madrid, Juventus, Liverpool and Manchester City being linked with the son-in-law of Argentina legend Diego Maradona. Only last week, Atletico chief executive Miguel Angel Gil Marin insisted Aguero was not for sale.