Ashley Cole has rejected a new one-year contract from Chelsea, ESPN can reveal, and could sign a pre-contract agreement with another club in January if no deal is reached.
Cole, 31, earns around £130,000-a-week at Stamford Bridge and his old Chelsea boss Jose Mourinho, now at Real Madrid, is keeping a close eye on developments, while another old boss, Carlo Ancelotti, would willingly take him to PSG next summer, when the England left-back would be a free agent.
Blues manager Roberto Di Matteo stated on Sunday that he was "optimistic" that Cole's contract would be sorted out and that he will stay; however, the offer of a one-year deal has been firmly rejected, and it is the length of any new contract that is presently the sticking point.
"The club have a policy that anyone who is over 30 years of age is offered a short-term new contract," a source told ESPN. "Ashley is 31, but he is fit and still at the peak of his form, but so far all that has been offered is a one-year deal. Whether that included a pay rise is irrelevant as Ashley was hoping for more than one extra year.
"As it stands that leaves Ashley free to talk to clubs and to actually sign for a new club from January onwards, and that clearly is an option unless something changes from Chelsea's end. There are no further negotiations planned as far as can be seen, but that now depends on Chelsea.
"Clearly this policy resulted in Didier Drogba leaving the club in the summer and it could mean Ashley leaving."
Cole has made it clear publicly that he wants to see out his entire career with the Blues, and Di Matteo clearly believes that the player's desire to stay at the Bridge will swing the decision towards Chelsea.
But the ESPN source added: "These type of issues are not dealt with by the manager but by the club, and therefore it is not about whether the manger is optimistic or not. Everyone knows Ashley wants to stay, but as yet the club have offered a one-year deal and that was immediately turned down."