There have been a few suggestions that the young England right back and centre half could be moved on this summer, but that seems a fair way off from happening and it’s certainly not something that seems to be crossing his mind.
Richards is entering a crucial stage of his career at 25-years-old and he faces a number of challenges in order to get his place back in the Manchester City, which will allow him to earn back his regular England position.
“I want to be here and I don’t know why any player would want to leave but every player wants to play football and if I can do that here it’s perfect. Manchester City’s my club,” said Richards.
His desire to remain a City player is quite obvious but it’s very important that he doesn’t push too hard for first team football because there is already evidence to suggest that he’s going to get chances.
The recent sale of Maicon pushes him up the pecking order in terms of playing at right back and across the defence in general.
The main problem he has to overcome is not an issue with the club, it comes in the form of Pablo Zabaleta, who played superbly when Richards was unavailable through injury last season.
The Argentinian has been one of the most important defenders for Manchester City over the last couple of seasons, which makes it all the more important for a new manager like Manuel Pellegrini to have him in the side, especially the defence.
Zabaleta made 29 starts in the Premier League last season so as long as he doesn’t do anything ridiculously bad or show some strange inconsistency during pre-season, he will start at right back.
“There was speculation because I’ve got two years left on my contract and Zabaleta had a fantastic season last season. He’s outstanding but that’s you expect at top teams. You expect competition,” he added.
Richards has talked openly about being used in a rotation system alongside Zabaleta but Pellegrini is a manager who will want a balanced and settled side, making changes for the sake of fatigue as opposed to tinkering just because the squad is large.
Zabaleta is only three-years older than Richards and it’s fair to suggest that he will have a very determined viewpoint heading into the new season that he is the number one right back and only poor form will see him dropped.
What Richards is likely to be told when he goes to Pellegrini for clarification is that when Zabaleta isn’t available, he’ll be in the team.
That creates a problem for Richards because he is effectively demanding first team games, but that doesn’t mean he’ll walk out the exit door this summer because he’s smarter than that.
Patience is everything in this situation and Richards has to show the same patience he showed working his way back from injury. He’ll get a chance because Zabaleta can’t play 60 games in a season, it’s important when it arrives, he takes it and reverses the current pecking order at right back.
How much do you think Richards will feature this season? Can he displace Zabaleta?
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