The sportsman - husband of X Factor judge Cheryl Cole - told The Sun that the shots ended up being sent to glamour girl Sonia Wild, 28, because he was careless when giving away an old mobile phone.
Cole explained that he took the raunchy pictures of himself while "larking about" with an unregistered camera phone. It is claimed that he forgot to delete the snaps before he passed the phone on to a friend, who later gave it to another party.
The third man, who has not been named, is then said to have used the pictures to impersonate the Chelsea star in sex text exchanges with Wild last summer.
Cole explained: "I can't believe I gave a phone away that still had stuff in its memory. I thought I'd deleted it. It seems I was wrong as someone has used it to pretend to be me."
A source close to the footballer added: "Ashley's embarrassed about this. He was larking about in his room with his camera phone before the match. He was in all his glory.
"He took the images on an unregistered pay-as-you-go phone then didn't manage to delete them when he gave it away to a mate. To say he's horrified to discover the pictures were sent to a model is an understatement."
Ashley's marriage to Girls Aloud star Cheryl hit the rocks in January 2008 when he was accused of cheating on her. However, they later managed to get their relationship back on track.