Thomas Hitzlsperger has run out of patience with Aston Villa and has agreed to join VfB Stuttgart of Germany on a free transfer in June.
The Germany international midfield player, who joined Villa from Bayern Munich in August 2000, is frustrated with the lack of regular first-team opportunities at Villa Park and failed to agree terms over a new deal.
Hitzlsperger, who today celebrates his 23rd birthday, has made no secret of his desire to be part of the Germany squad for the 2006 World Cup and he believes that a move back to his home country will help his international ambitions.
His decision to return to Germany is a blow to David O'Leary, the Villa manager, who is trying to improve his squad rather than weaken it.
Villa were last night unable to confirm Hitzlsperger's impending move to Stuttgart but O'Leary has always been open to the possibility that the player might leave.
Hitzlsperger told the www.vfb-stuttgart.de website: "I am happy that the transfer to VfB has now become concrete. I decided to go to Stuttgart because of the positive sporting perspective and the very positive conversations I have had [with Stuttgart]."
Hitzlsperger, who has played 109 matches for Villa, scoring eight goals, flourished when Graham Taylor took over as manager in February 2002.
He previously played six games on loan with Chesterfield in 2001.
But, despite showing much potential, he has never quite turned his potential into something more tangible. He remains an enigma.
Matthias Sammer, the Stuttgart head coach, believes that the German club can bring the best of Hitzlsperger.
"This is an important step regarding the new season," Sammer said. "Thomas succeeded as a young player in England and has lots of potential. We are happy that he decided on VfB and we are convinced that Thomas can continue his positive development of the last few years when he comes to Stuttgart."
Erwin Staudt, Stuttgart president, added: "[The signing] is a signal for the team and our fans. Our goal is clear - we want to qualify [for the Uefa Champions League)."
Despite Hitzlsperger's concerns at a perceived lack of first-team football, he was in the starting line-up to face Newcastle United last Saturday, and he played a significant role in the 3-0 victory.
O'Leary had admitted before the trip to St James' Park that "the talking is over with" in terms of a new contract.
He added: "I find it hard when Thomas said that he has to play games. He has been playing games during the last two years. That is why he has got himself into the German national side.
"What he has been doing at Villa, even though he has not been playing every game, has enabled him to achieve that. I am not resigned to him going but I think the talking is over with."
Hitzlsperger was beset by injury problems earlier in the season and since he regained fitness he has only occasionally been part of O'Leary's starting line-up.
While Hitzlsperger's departure is far from ideal, O'Leary will be given the funds to strengthen the team. He is reportedly set to receive up to £20 million but must now make a left-sided midfield player part of his list of priorities.
O'Leary is also likely to sign a right back, a central defender, a creative midfield player, and a striker.
Gavin McCann is in line for a recall to the first team after making good progress in his rehabilitation from a knee operation in January.
The England international midfield player has missed the past nine matches and was originally ruled out until the end of the season. However, he could play for the reserve team against Sunderland tomorrow night.
In McCann's absence, Villa have been erratic and O'Leary has lamented the loss of his most inspirational figure.
"Gavin is getting better," O'Leary said. "I hope he has got an outside chance of a reserve-team game against Sunderland. We will not know for certain until nearer the game, because we need to see how he progresses.
"He would be a great one to have back. When you play derbies you want someone with Gav's physical presence. So it would be great to have him back."