Watford-bound Younes Kaboul has spoken of his “incredibly difficult” decision after asking for a move from Sunderland for personal reasons.
The Black Cats have reluctantly accepted a bid from the Hornets, believed to be around £3.5million, for the 30-year-old centre-back.
Kaboul, a key player in last season’s survival, expressed a desire to leave Wearside for personal reasons and move back to London.
Kaboul, who said his goodbyes at the Academy of Light yesterday, spoke with manager David Moyes over recent days to discuss his future.
“This is not an easy situation for me, but the club and the manager have shown an understanding of my personal circumstances and I am grateful for that,” said Kaboul.
“The Sunderland fans have supported me fantastically well since I came to the club. They gave me my passion back and I sincerely thank them for that. I hope they understand that I have made this incredibly difficult decision for me.”
The Frenchman, signed from Tottenham last summer, was wanted by Hornets head coach Walter Mazzarri to boost his defence.
He is set to sign a three-year contract at Watford and team up again with former Black Cats keeper Costel Pantilimon.
A club statement said: “Sunderland AFC can confirm that it has accepted a bid from Watford for Younes Kaboul.
“Younes had spoken with David Moyes in recent days, expressing his desire to leave the club for personal reasons.
“The club therefore agreed to a request from the player’s representative to be allowed to speak to Watford regarding a move.
“An agreement has been reached between the two clubs and the player has been given permission to talk to Watford regarding personal terms.”
Sunderland, who have signed Papy Djilobodji from Chelsea for £8million, have now been linked with a season-long loan move for his ex-team-mate Matt Miazga.
The 21-year-old American centre-back is not part of the first-team plans at Chelsea.
Kaboul’s exit is a major blow to Sunderland, who are also fighting to keep hold of his defensive partner – Lamine Kone.
Their form was a key reason behind the club’s survival last season, with both starting against Manchester City on the opening day of the Premier League season.
Moyes has said he expects Kone to stay at the club this summer after Everton last week lodged an unsuccessful £18million bid for the Ivory Coast international.
It led to a statement being put out in his name claiming Kone wanted a move after Sunderland had failed to offer him a promised new deal – a claim rejected by the club who will offer him a bumper new deal on September 1.
Moyes revealed the 27-year-old was surprised when he was shown the statement he had apparently made asking for a transfer and claimed he had not seen it.
Toffees boss Ronald Koeman was again quizzed about Kone at his weekly press conference on Thursday.
“He’s still playing for a different team than Everton so I don’t speak about him,” said Koeman.
Meanwhile, Rangers manager Mark Warburton admits he is close to signing two players and is “optimistic” he can persuade a player of the quality of Joleon Lescott to come to Ibrox.
Sunderland have been linked with an interest in Lescott, who Moyes signed for Everton back in 2006.
But Warburton believes Rangers can bridge the financial gap between the Scottish and English top flights by stressing the experience on offer at Ibrox.
After holding talks with Lescott, and with Preston striker Joe Garner tipped to sign, Warburton confirmed he was “hopefully very near a conclusion on one or two targets.”