What a difference a few months makes in football.
Towards the end of last season, it seemed certain Joleon Lescott would leave Manchester City. Now he looks set to start their opening match of the season against Newcastle on Monday evening.
In an interview with talkSPORT yesterday, the defender spoke candidly about his desire to force his way into Manuel Pellegrini’s plans and remain at Manchester City beyond this season. The 30-year-old has one year left to run on his current deal but is confident he can win a new one if he can produce his best form.
Playing alongside Vincent Kompany, Lescott was one half of a formidable centre-back pairing that conceded just 29 goals during the club’s title winning season in 2011-12.
However, last year saw Lescott usurped by the outstanding Matija Nastasic, leaving him on the sideline for large parts of the season. But an ankle injury has ruled the Serbian out of action for at least two more weeks, presenting an opportunity for Lescott to impress the new manager.
He told talkSPORT:
No one likes to see colleagues and fellow professionals get injured but if it means me starting then great.
If he [Manuel Pellegrini] does call upon me then I’d like to say I’d give 100% and do his decision justice.
I’m in the last year of my contract now so I’ve got to get my head down and try and earn a new one here and remain here.
It’s nice to be a part of this club and it’s nice to know that I came at the start when the club were in transition and as they started winning things.
Lescott is determined to be part of the England setup at next summer’s World Cup but feels playing regularly for City will be the key factor in determining his selection. He was left out for the recent friendly against Scotland, but the defender feels good about his international prospects.
I was disappointed not to be involved in the Scotland game but I’m confident that if I’m paying for Manchester City and we’re pushing for honours at the top of the Premier League then it will take care of itself.
The national team is full of the best players and if you’re playing in a top team in your country you shouldn’t be too far away [from the squad].
My ambitions don’t change but now I’m full focused on being selected for Man City and then hopefully I can get back into the England squad for the World Cup qualifiers.
Lescott remains an excellent defender and has every chance of cementing his place in the City and England sides if he starts the season well in Nastasic’s absence.
The importance of his World Cup place cannot be underestimated—it’s the pinnacle of a player’s career—and he’ll be determined to prove he’s good enough to go to Brasil.
The question now is whether City will buy another centre-back to add further competition for places. Real Madrid’s Pepe has been strongly linked by the Daily Mail, and in recent days Martin Demichelis has been mentioned as a possible signing by the same paper, but Lescott will almost certainly start against Newcastle, giving him an opportunity to impress early in the season.
If he can take his chance and find the same kind of form he showed in 2011-12, it will be very difficult for whoever comes in to displace him.
Rob Pollard is Bleacher Report's lead Manchester City correspondent and will be following the club from a Manchester base throughout the 2013-14 season. Follow him on Twitter here @TypicalCity