"I have not worked with anyone so good and so young."
It's hard to believe those words were once used by Stuart Pearce to describe Micah Richards while he was Manchester City manager in 2006.
Richards was just 17 at the time, but his performances at right-back had seen him emerge as one of England's hottest young talents.
Strong, athletic and a leader in the making, Richards was even tipped by Pearce to stay at City for 10 years and become captain. Unfortunately, that hasn't quite worked out.
"I would love to see Micah stay here, captain the club, and maybe be here for 10 years and carry the club on his back if he can," said Pearce 13 years ago. "He is good enough to do it."
It's now 2019 and Richards, 30, hasn't played a senior game for current club Aston Villa since October 15, 2016 - almost two-and-a-half years ago.
An injury to his calf forced the Englishman off that day and since then meniscus problems in his right knee has stopped him from returning. Any form of exercise can cause his knee to swell.
Villa manager Dean Smith recently explained that Richards isn't close to returning, despite being on a tailor-made training programme.
"Micah has not played for a long time, so he's not near fitness to be in contention at all at the moment," said Smith. "We'll see how his fitness builds over the next month or two.
"He's been on a special programme, the training minutes he hasn't had so far. We'll see how his body adapts to those training minutes as we go."
It's the same problem Steve Bruce had with Richards this time last year and now a very sad update has emerged.
According to the Daily Mail, Richards is set to admit defeat and retire this summer when his £25,000-per-week contract expires at Villa.
Richards has told friends he intends to call it quits and potentially focus on his business interests away from football.
It's claimed the 13-time England international is a very popular figure at Villa with his bright and likeable personality, so his plans to retire will no doubt upset his teammates.
"He's probably the nicest player I've worked with, the staff love him," a source said in 2018. "He is very popular and always has a smile on his face."News Now - Sport News