Manchester City's 2012-13 campaign has been a massive disappointment. Even a win in next week's derby match against Manchester United will only bring them within 12 points of their bitter rivals at the top of the Premier League table.
It'll take a miracle even bigger than last year's to overcome that kind of deficit, especially with just seven games remaining. Remember, the club overturned an eight-point gap with six to play last season. As such, aside from the FA Cup run, it's time to look ahead to next season.
An underwhelming season ought to be followed up by a lot of movement on the player front. New faces will be brought in to try to turn things around and dead weight will be cut. One player who is supposedly close to the exit is defender Joleon Lescott.
The Englishman has dropped in the pecking order at the Etihad Stadium after last season's title-winning campaign. This lack of playing time kept him out of the latest England squad until the withdrawals of Michael Dawson and Rio Ferdinand, along with the retirement of John Terry and the injury to Gary Cahill.
In light of this, Goal.com is reporting Lescott could force through an exit this summer. He would do so by sacrificing much of his remaining wages in exchange for an accelerated move. There will surely be a number of teams circling should this happen, but City would be wise to keep the veteran around.
When he was dropped from his usual starting berth alongside Vincent Kompany, it was because new signing Matija Nastasic had shown some bright moments in his early appearances. When Kompany went down injured a couple months ago, Kolo Toure was selected more often than Lescott.
But still, this should not prevent Lescott from having a role in this squad.
Last season, not only was he the first-choice partner for Kompany, but he also played a hand—or rather, a head—in the build up to Sergio Aguero's title-winning goal. Hero status is by no means a powerful reason to keep a player, but it doesn't hurt.
This season, despite being shuffled in and out of the lineup, Lescott has had a decent season overall. While still prone to the occasional lapse in concentration, he is still a generally assured presence overall. His 0.3 fouls per game rate is the lowest of the four City center-backs discussed.
His one goal and 90-percent pass success rate are on par with Kompany, while he also leads the team in blocked shots per game at 0.8. It is this quality—his willingness to get between the ball and the net, unlike a certain French midfielder—that is one of his best and most important roles for this club.
Lescott is also a big man at nearly 200 pounds. This gives him the strength to hold his own against strong center forwards that are aplenty in the Premier League. Players like Demba Ba, Olivier Giroud and Emmanuel Adebayor face a defender who can match up with them physically.
Perhaps the biggest reason Lescott needs to be kept around at Eastlands is that he possesses a lot of great intangible qualities. Capped 26 times for his national side, the 30-year-old is described as "aware, versatile, intelligent" by ESPN.
Alongside club captain Kompany, Lescott is a "commanding presence at the back" who can help keep his back line motivated. If Nastasic is to be the future of the club partnering the Belgian, he would do well to learn from Lescott.
The Serbian made his club debut in the Champions League against Real Madrid, a huge stage for a relatively unproven player. He's shown great qualities since, including averaging over two interceptions per game in Champions League play.
Like Lescott—and most defenders, for that matter—Nastasic is prone to the odd lapse in concentration. It's recovering from those and continuing to work hard for your team that will make you better. The English veteran has been there and done that and can instill plenty of lessons on his eventual successor.
Yes, Lescott is upset at his lack of a featuring role at the club. His contract expires at the end of next season, and given that he will be 31 come mid-August, he may be unlikely to renew in these circumstances. His transfer value peaked when he joined City, and the club would need to act fast to cash in should they choose to.
However, his non-monetary value to the club is still high. He has a lot to give to this side, especially as they look to go on yet another Champions League endeavor—something former club and rumored suitor Everton might not be able to offer.
City need to put monetary considerations aside in this case. They should realize by now that Lescott is a valuable member of this squad, no matter how good Nastasic will be in a couple years' time. The grueling English season requires tons of depth, and City mustn't sacrifice it to make a quick buck.