The 24-year-old Englishman currently earns £80,000 a week and has been at the club since he was 12 years old. Whilst he is highly rated as a strong and versatile defender, his short career has been plagued by a number of long-term injuries that have kept him sidelined long periods in his senior career.
The only season he featured in more than 30 league games for the Citizens was back in 2008/09 when he had just started break into the England squad under Steve McLaren. However, upon the appointment of Fabio Capello, Richards made just one appearance for his country.
There is no doubting his quality – he is physically strong and imposing, very fast and technically gifted – he has featured as both a centre-back and as a right-back in recent seasons under Roberto Mancini but injuries have made it extremely difficult for him to make progress and find his form.
He has made just 7 Premier League appearances for City this term, only 5 of them starts early on in the season before undergoing knee surgery which has kept him sidelined for 6 months.
In that same period, Mancini and City struggled with rotation in their back line due to injuries and it’s clear they really need to reinvest in some additional reinforcements this summer.
I would expect whoever comes in to replace Mancini, whether Manuel Pellegrini or someone else, they will likely bring in a seasoned international centre-back to partner Vincent Kompany in the long-term and that will undoubtedly impact the chances of Richards regaining his place in the first team.
The fine form of Pablo Zabaleta also blocks his path considerably to the right-back position he has been deployed at predominantly as well. It’s hard to see him gaining access to regular first team football, and regaining full match fitness, never mind the form to go with it.
Subsequently, it’s hard to see him forcing his way into Roy Hodgson’s England team for the World Cup in Brazil next year. How is expected to further his development to become the world-class international defender he’s capable of at his potential ability level?
No doubt he’ll be glad to sign up on a contract worth £80,000 a week or possibly even more but in the long-term his future may necessarily have to lay elsewhere if he wants to improve, which he still needs to do.
Perhaps if he gets a good pre-season in before next term starts, manages to impress the new boss in training and keep himself fit he could have a chance of regular first-team action with City but, as it stands, he’s only played two full seasons in 8 years.
image: © alfonso jimenez