With just over a year left on his current deal, it seems unlikely that the club will hold on to Richards beyond the summer if he hasn’t agreed to new terms.
Daily Mail: City will look to sell the long-serving but often injured Micah Richards (25) this summer after he rejected a new 5-year deal.— City Watch (@City_Watch) March 7, 2014
It’s a delicate situation for both the player and club.
Richards himself needs to play games if he is ever going to return to the excellent form he showed in 2011-12, but with Pablo Zabaleta so firmly City’s No.1 right-back and Richards’ injury record in recent years holding him back, he simply isn’t getting those games at City.
A series of injuries have restricted him to just two league appearances this season, and since the turn of the year, he has only featured in two FA Cup matches—against Blackburn and Watford.
For the club, the emotional connection to Richards is obvious, given that he is the only academy graduate to survive in the Sheikh Mansour era at the club. Richards represents a time past, the heart and soul of a club that has undergone seismic change in recent seasons.
The shrine to the full-back in a room close to the media zone at the Etihad is proof of the club's appreciation of Richards. A series of huge photos chart his progression, from Youth Cup captain to Premier League winner.
It's a wonderful story that makes those within the corridors of the Etihad immensely proud.
As well as the romanticism that defines Richards' relationship with the club, there are practical benefits of his involvement too. The homegrown quota needs fulfilling and City need two right-backs. If he leaves, they will need to replace him.
The burden currently placed on Zabaleta, who has played almost every match this season, cannot continue for too much longer.
The danger which many City fans are well aware of is, if he is allowed to leave, with regular games he could return to the superb form he showed in 2011-12 when City won the title. Richards was excellent under Roberto Mancini, a marauding right-back who had improved the defensive side of his game. He was City's No. 1 in that position and Zabaleta had to accept a reduced role.
He is currently a shell of the player that tore teams to pieces en route to the title, his form dramatically worse. Of course, injuries are to blame, but his performances away at Sunderland and Bayern Munich are the worst two individual performances from a City player this season.
He knows better than anyone that he needs to improve.
Maybe a move away is the only option. At 25, though, the danger is Richards leaving and finding his best form elsewhere. If he does that, City will have lost a fine player who was nurtured on their watch.
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: @RobPollard_.
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