London: Chelsea striker Nicolas Anelka looks set to leave Stamford Bridge as it has become clear he is not in the plans of new coach Andre Villas-Boas.
The French striker will see his current four-year contract expire at the end of the season, but he has been told he is free to sign a pre-contract with a rival team at the turn of the year.
Villas-Boas recently claimed Anelka had chosen not to extend his four-year stay at Stamford Bridge, although the player later insisted he had made no decision about his future.
But after it emerged that Chinese side Shanghai Shenhua were prepared to offer a lucrative salary to convince him to play with them, Anelka has accepted his days at Chelsea are numbered.
"I love playing here," Anelka said in The Times.
"Chelsea has been the best part of my career and it's been great playing and winning with terrific guys like Didier Drogba, John Terry, Frank Lampard and Florent Malouda.
"I was hoping to win another league title this season with Chelsea, but now, apparently, it is not to be."
Anelka did not travel for Chelsea's Champions League game at Bayer Leverkusen tonight despite being fully fit, an apparent sign he is not part of Villas-Boas' long-term plans.
Anelka has also attracted interest from AC Milan and Anzhi Makhachkala, the Russian club who made Samuel Eto'o the highest paid player in the world in August.
A number of Major League Soccer clubs have also been linked with the forward, including New York Red Bulls, Los Angeles Galaxy, Philadelphia Union and Montreal Impact.
The former Arsenal, Real Madrid, Liverpool, Manchester City and Bolton star has started just three times in the Premier League this season, scoring once.