MICHAEL Johnson, the talented young player who broke into the Manchester City team at 18, has been cut loose by the club after years of underachievement and problems with alcohol.
The 24-year-old had previously been one of the shining stars of Manchester City's academy in recent years but was offered a severance package from his £40,000-a-week contract just before Christmas.
However, the Premier League champions only announced the severance publicly after a picture of the bloated Johnson emerged on Twitter last night.
Johnson signed for City from Everton's youth team in 2004, and was picked for the first XI after just two weeks. He made his Premier League debut during the 2006-07 season and featured 10 times under manager Stuart Pearce.
"He is an outstanding young player with a great talent and a great future ahead of him and we want that future to be at City, so we are working to that end,” Hughes said.
"The guy has everything in front of him.
"We have all been impressed with what he has shown so far, and I am sure he will be an England regular.
"Michael needs to keep working, but we can help him. We want him to be the best he can be because he has all the right qualities."
But in 2008, City publicly admitted Johnson had a problem. He had not played in the Premier League since August, suffering from an abdominal injury but the malaise was not confined to his physical fitness.
"Michael is a young lad who has been unlucky," said Mark Bowen, Hughes' assistant at the time.
"He has had a nagging injury that has held him back. When Michael in on the training ground and is focused he is a fantastic asset for this club.
"When young players have been in and out of action as long as he has it can mess your mind up a little bit because they just want to be out there playing.
"He has just got to be strong, fight through it, train hard and get back in the team. In the early part of the season he was a big player for us and we miss him."
Liverpool reportedly bid £10m for the player but City offered him a lucrative contract to stay, signing him up for five years.
Johnson's last appeared for City as a second-half substitute in a Carling Cup tie against Scunthorpe in Oct 2009 and moved to Leicester City the next year on a season-long loan.
The Foxes spent £1m to bring him to Leicester but terminated the deal after six months.
Johnson finally hit the headlines last May after he crashed his car in Manchester last May while driving drunk.
This was the second time he had been arrested for drink-driving in the space of three months, and he was fined £5,500 and given a three-year driving ban.
It now remains to be seen whether the player can resurrect his footballing career after so many years on the sidelines.