Rumours persist that Micah Richards is likely to leave Premier League champions Manchester City having allegedly rejected approaches by the club to renew his contract.
After a few injury hit seasons, Richards has fallen out of favour under new City boss Manuel Pellegrini, and as such has not featured for England for a number of years. Yet Richards talent and value to the club should not go unnoticed, and the club should be reluctant to let the England right-back leave the club.
Richards has predominately been used as a right-back in his time at City. A key member of the title winning side under Roberto Mancini, Richards has demonstrated his ability playing in such a position, and how valuable an asset he is as a full-back. Micah Richards is physically strong which encapsulates his playing style, a defensive style based on brute force and power. His strength, pace and height are all components of the theoretical perfect defender and make Richards a defensively solid player, as shown by his previous displays in the sky blue of City.
Richards is however lacking in the more attacking areas of his game, which are becoming increasingly important for the modern day full-back, especially under Manuel Pellegrini's attacking, free-flowing philosophy. Richards' ball control is in need of improvement, as is his final delivery which has been lacking in previous seasons, and is the reason why he has failed to register as many assists as his competitor Pablo Zabaleta.
His more defensive nature therefore makes Richards a stronger candidate for a centre half position in an attacking team such as Manchester City. Richards has made a handful of appearances for City in a more central role, and has impressed when playing in such a role. His height and athletic leap allow Richards to win defensive headers, whilst his pace and power allows him to win the ball on the ground as well. Micah Richards therefore has all the ability to become a world class centre back.
One of the main problems for Richards at City is the competition for places in the team, which is the primary reason that Richards' appearances for the blues have been restricted in recent years.
City have a wealth of experienced right-backs at their disposal, especially following the recent arrival of Bacary Sagna from Arsenal this summer. First choice full back Pablo Zabaleta is amongst the best in the world from both attacking and defensive perspectives, and his consistency over the past few seasons has been incredible, keeping Richards out of the first team. Furthermore, Bacary Sagna is likely to dislodge Richards as Zabaleta's primary replacement, as from an attacking perspective, the Frenchman is more accomplished which is required under Pellegrini's attacking philosophy.
However the centre-back position is Manchester City's achilles heel. A lack of strength in depth, and a lack of a world class partner to Vincent Kompany has made City's defence subject to intensive scrutiny and is a problem the club are actively looking to solve. Despite Martin Demichelis' solidity towards the end of the 2013/2014 season, and the promise shown by Matija Nastasic in his debut season at the club, City remain weak centrally.
Richards has all the attributes to be a long term partner to Kompany and to help the club be as defensively solid as they were in the 2011/2012 title winning season. Although linked to Mehdi Benatia, Elequim Mangala and Pepe, doubts have been raised about the possibility of such transfers because of Financial Fair Play regulations which would further enhance Richards' opportunities of playing at the heart of City's defence.
Micah Richards is a fans favourite, and it would be sensible for City to keep Richards at the club for the fans. As an academy graduate, Richards is loved by City fans for his passionate love of both football and the club. Fans would therefore rather see Richards given his chance than the club sign another player, because of his importance to City fans worldwide.
His contributions to the club should not be undervalued, as despite a talented player, Richards is a great leader, as demonstrated by his selection in the 2012 Team GB Olympic squad. He is a popular player within the squad and exerts a positive influence on the dressing room, even when not selected. Such intangible benefits should not be forgotten by the executives in charge of City, and highlight the importance that Richards is held on to by the Manchester-based club.
City should also keep Richards because of the recent regulations placed on the club by UEFA. As both English and an academy graduate, Richards fulfils the homegrown quota which City are struggling to comply with, and also comes at no added cost to the team, which helps the club comply with the FFP regulations. Adding in to the equation Richards' ability, it appears a wise footballing and business move to keep the player at the club.
Micah Richards is a talented defender for Manchester City, offering more to the club than just his on-pitch displays. His value to the club he has grown up playing for is indispensable and the club should therefore do all in their powers to keep hold of the Englishmen.
However, an influx of defensive talent during this summer's transfer window could spell the end of Richards' nine-year tenure with the club, which should and would be regretted by City officials and fans alike.
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