Arsenal midfielder Jack Wilshere is to leave the club after 17 years having been told he faces a diminished role under new head coach Unai Emery.
The 26-year-old had previously accepted a reduced-terms deal to extend his contract which expires at the end of the month but discussions with Emery convinced him he had “little choice” but to leave for “footballing reasons”.
Wilshere and his agent had been negotiating his future with the club for several months but the meeting with Emery, appointed as Arsene Wenger’s successor in late May, proved the turning point.
“I can confirm I will be leaving Arsenal Football Club when my contract expires at the end of June,” Wilshere wrote on Instagram.
“Following a number of extensive conversations with those at the club, and in particular a recent meeting with the new manager Unai Emery, I felt that I was ultimately left with little choice but to make the decision that I have due to purely footballing reasons.
“Following my meeting with the new manager I was made aware that although the reduced contract offer remained, it was made clear to me that my playing time would be significantly reduced should I decide to stay.
“I am sure everyone can understand that at this point in my life and career I need to be playing first team football and following my meeting with Mr Emery I came away feeling that it would be very difficult for me to do so at Arsenal.
“Given this, I feel I have no option but to pursue other opportunities in order to progress my career on the pitch.
“I would like to place on record my respect for Mr Emery and my appreciation for his honesty and candour and I wish him, the team and the club all the very best for the future.”
Wilshere’s name has already been removed from the club website’s list of players.
However, the Gunners posted two thank you messages on Twitter.
“Thank you for everything, @JackWilshere – and all the best for the future #GoodLuckJack,” read the first post.
“For your love, for your commitment and fighting spirit, for THAT Norwich goal, for the FA Cups, for the 2013/14 goal of the season, for the 2014/15 goal of the season, for the 197 appearances, for the 17 years and for just being you… THANK YOU @JACKWILSHERE.”
The midfielder made 197 Arsenal appearances, having debuted in September 2008 aged 16 and 256 days – the club’s youngest league player.
And having joined their academy as a nine-year-old he admits it is a wrench to finally leave.
“I have been on the books at Arsenal for 17 years and have always felt part of the fabric of the club.
“I leave with memories that will stay with me forever from my time at the club.”
Former Arsenal striker Ian Wright sympathised with the situation Wilshere found himself in and how tough it will be for him to leave the Emirates.
Wright posted on Twitter: “I know exactly what Jack is going through & it is heartbreaking knowing that you have to leave Arsenal Football Club. I wish you all the best in the future and hope you find the happiness again in playing the game you love. ”
Over the last few months Wilshere has been linked with the likes of Everton, Southampton, Wolves and West Ham in the Premier League and Juventus, AC Milan and Paris St-Germain in Europe.
However, he said he will take time to weigh up his next move.
“I am feeling fit, sharp and strong and will be working tirelessly to ensure I am in peak condition ahead of the new season,” he said.
“I’ll now be taking the time necessary to consider my options before deciding on the next stage of my career.”