Swansea City manager Garry Monk says phasing Leon Britton out of his first-team plans has been one of the most difficult decisions of his fledgling managerial career.
Injury and illness hampered Britton last season, but the Liberty Stadium legend found himself behind the likes of Ki Sung-yueng, Jack Cork and Jonjo Shelvey in the midfield pecking order upon his return.
Youngsters such as Jay Fulton and Matt Grimes have also been handed opportunities to shine by Monk, further limiting Britton’s involvement and putting him on course to depart south Wales.
“It’s one of the most difficult situations I have faced since taking this job, if not the most difficult,” he said.
“But last year was a difficult year for him; he was out for four months at the start and when he came back people were playing well in his position.
“When he came back he was going to get a chance and he had couple of illnesses – it was one of those seasons for him; he is still super-fit but he ended up not playing the games he would have liked.
“He still wants to play 30 or 40 games a season but I have said to him that, realistically, he is not going to do that here now.
“He is still a big part of our squad and I love having him about – he can still contribute. But in his mind he needs to go and see if he can play those 30 or 40 games.”
Britton has made more than 400 appearances for Swansea over two spells, having first arrived on loan from West Ham in 2002, and could become the second long-serving player to depart during the close-season following the release of Alan Tate.