The prospect of Carlton Cole playing for Aston Villa next season is "unlikely", according to his agent Jonathan Barnett.
Cole started 18 league games for Villa this season during his year-long loan move from Chelsea and scored on his debut against Southampton in the Premiership.
The 21-year-old forward only notched two further goals, but his pace and strength gave Villa a different dimension up-front and made him a valuable asset to manager David O'Leary.
The Villa boss has spelt out his desire on several occasions to retain the England Under-21 international.
But Cole has gone back to Chelsea - where he has three years left on his contract - and last night Barnett said his client was unlikely to return to Villa.
Barnett said: "Carlton is still contracted to Chelsea so he has gone back and I think it is unlikely he will play for Villa next season.
"He enjoyed his time at Villa very much and liked working with David O'Leary, but we have to sit down with Chelsea and assess things. It was a learning process at Villa."
Barnett's remarks do not make it clear where Cole will be playing next season, but it is hard to imagine the youngster being given a chance in Jose Mourinho's squad at Stamford Bridge.
The Premiership champions and Carling Cup winners already have plenty of attacking options with Eidur Gudjohnsen, Mikael Forssell, Didier Drogba and Mateja Kezman in their squad. And if Mourinho strengthens his squad, then he is almost certain to opt for a more experienced striker with a better goal-scoring record.
Indeed, it seems more probable Cole will go out on loan to another club - perhaps in the Championship where he would have a better chance of starting - or be sold permanently.
Villa are set to bolster their squad with at least two new strikers to supplement Darius Vassell, Juan Pablo Angel and Luke Moore, but O'Leary's attention has been directed towards Newcastle forward Craig Bellamy and Southampton ' s Kevin Phillips.