Micah Richards has revealed that Manchester City reserve team coach and Arsenal legend Patrick Vieira was one of the figures who convinced him to move to Fiorentina on a season-long loan.
The club’s longest-serving player at the time of his departure, Richards has made 245 appearances since his debut in 2005, but has struggled for game time in recent seasons after being usurped at both right-back and centre-half.
Hailed as a future England stalwart upon making his international bow in November 2006, aged 18, the 13-times capped defender also received advice from Stefan Savic, who moved from the Blues to Fiorentina in 2012, as well as Stefan Jovetic, who made the switch in the opposite direction last summer, but it was guidance from his idol Viera which had particular resonance.
‘As I grew up one of my idols was Vieira,’ he said at his first official media session. ‘We also played together for couple of seasons and it was a great experience.
‘He was a great leader and a great player. He also told me how great this possible move would be. In my position I don’t have any idols but he’s special.’
Set to become only the 24th Englishman to play in Serie A in the league’s history, Richards joins now-Roma left-back Ashley Cole in an exclusive club which also includes the likes of David Beckham, Paul Ince, Paul Gascoigne and David Platt.
He admits the decision to leave City after 12 years was extremely tough, but is now looking forward to the chance of a fresh start and regular first-team minutes in his bid to revitalise his once-promising career.
‘Leaving after 12 years was very difficult, but I have no resentment; it’s also thanks to City that I am where I am today,’ he said.
‘Some things have happened over the last year. I thought I could play more because I showed what I was capable of doing, but I'm happy with my decision. City have 22 international players so it’s hard to get a look in.
‘For me this is a great experience. I wouldn’t have wanted to stay at home, I wanted to go abroad. I saw that this team was particularly ambitious, and last year finished really well in the league.’
With the Italian side paying a reported £3.5 million to bring him on board for the 2014-15 campaign, if all goes to plan then an additional £1.2 million could eventually see Richards’ switch made permanent.