Hughes departure sparks speculation

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Mark Hughes resigned as Fulham manager on Thursday despite having agreed terms on a new contract with the club.

Hughes' decision to activate a break clause in the two-year deal he signed with Fulham last summer will fuel speculation of a move to managerless Aston Villa. According to a source close to the club, owner Mohamed Al Fayed believed Hughes was positioning himself for a move while negotiating and finalising the terms of a new deal with Fulham.

Al Fayed is said to have grown "increasingly annoyed" with Hughes and did not oppose his request to leave at the end of June, having served a month's notice.

But Hughes, in announcing his decision to leave Craven Cottage after one season at the helm, insisted he had not been in talks with any other club.

"I hope the supporters and all those connected with the club will understand I wish to move on to further my experiences,'' said Hughes.

"I would also like to take this opportunity to clarify that neither myself nor my representative have approached or have been approached by another club.

"This decision to leave Fulham has not been influenced by any outside party."

Hughes, 47, is the bookmakers' favourite to replace Gerard Houllier at Villa Park, although the Midlands club are believed to be interested in former Chelsea manager Carlo Ancelotti.

Press Association Sport understands that Hughes' departure from Fulham has "no connection" with the Villa vacancy. Any club that might want him will have to wait.

The Welshman's notice at Craven Cottage expires on June 30, the same day Fulham are scheduled to play the first Europa League qualifying round. Fulham have confirmed that, even if a new manager has not been appointed by the end of the month, Hughes will not take charge of that game.

Copyright (c) PA Sport 2009, All Rights Reserved.

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